This past Christmas, my brother in law (who sometimes plays the hunter punter role in Left 4 Dead) gave me this awesome book called Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Glenn Kay. This is a complete comprehensive guide for all the different kinds of zombie films that have managed to grace the screen in the past hundred years. It details the biggies like Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead, but it’s the small lesser known “I can’t believe anyone took the time make this” kind of zombie movie that gets my attention.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, a zombie film made in the seventies, is one such picture. Here’s what author Glenn Kay has to say about it:
While by no means a classic, this low-budget American drive-in flick was a pleasant surprise. Shot in Florida and set on a secluded island, the plot deals with a group of actors rehearsing near a graveyard for inspiration. When cowriter/star Alan Ormsby suggests performing a ceremony to raise the dead, his unimpressed compatriots humor him, thinking it is a joke. Of course, the dead soon rise and attack the living. (In spite of its title, there are no actual children in the film, unless you think that college students qualify).
Children has the flaws of any low-budget feature: simple shots with a single point of focus, awkward framing, too many scenes made up of wide master shots, and obvious lighting sources behind trees. The story is really silly and slowly paced, and some performances are well, …. lousy. Most assuming is Ormsby, who perhaps stands out simply because of his amazingly garish striped pants and ascot. He’s like Fred from the Sooby-Doo cartoon series, except intellectual, ineffective, and obnoxiously hilarious, spouting absurd criticisms like “The dead are losers!”
Nevertheless, the film is a little more successful than one might expect, due to its odd assortment of characters, humor, and surprises and to a few truly characters, humor, and surprises and to a few eerie moments. The first zombie attack, built up with cuts between the actors and a smoky cemetery, is genuinely tense. This sequence features one of the few false scares in zombie cinema that is reasonably effective! And the long panning shot of the zombies rising from their graves toward the end is brilliantly unnerving. Director Bob Clark was obviously influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968), and he displays considerable skill despite the $70,000 budget. Naturally, the movie turned a profit – how could it not make money with a budget that small?
So the big question of the hour … has anyone seen this movie and is it worth the time? Glenn’s description intrigued me and I gotta say, it sounds like Ormsby makes some unintentional laughs. It sounds like the moral of the story is if you have friends who wish undertake some bizarre occultist ritual to get in the mood for acting, I’d say you might have found yourself in the wrong play.
Btw … the rest of Glenn’s book is pretty awesome. If you got a chance, check it out. More to come.
Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide (amazon.com <- new window)
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – Netflix (netflix.com <- new window)