A cop chases two hippies suspected of a series of Manson family-like murders; unbeknownst to him, the real culprits are the living dead, brought to life with a thirst for human flesh by chemical pesticides being used by area farmers.
Based on the Ed Gein case, a deranged rural farmer becomes a grave robber and murderer after the death of his possessive mother, whose corpse he keeps (among others) as his companion in a decaying farmhouse.
An acting troupe led by Alan Ormsby go to a graveyard on a remote island to perform a necromantic ritual. The ritual works too well and soon the dead are walking about and chowing down on human flesh. The dwindling group of survivors struggle to escape. Written by
Bob Clark was always more interested in comedy, even when making horror. The problem has always been, for me at least, that his sense of humor was too stupid and infantile to ever be funny, or even believable when coming from the mouth of anybody over the age of ten. And so in 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' we have a bunch of grown adults behaving like elementary school children pouting, whining, giggling and taunting their way from one pointless scene to another. Though the characters' childishness is supposed to be a plot point (hence the title), it's so tedious, repetitive and irritating as to make the first 2/3 of the movie almost unwatchable. Writer Alan Ormsby, badly miscast as the lead character, delivers one of the most embarrassing and cringeworthy performances I've ever seen. And don't get me started on the ridiculous caricatures of two gay men that pop up half way through.
It's worth sitting through all the Scooby Doo bullsh*t for a final act that seems like it was plucked from another, and far superior, movie. Sure, it's a complete rip-off of 'Night of the Living Dead', with everyone trapped in a house under siege by the undead hoards, but after such an appalling first hour, even blatant plagiarism is a welcome relief. But anyone expecting Tom Savini-style blood and guts will be sorely disappointed 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' is rated PG for a reason.
The hand-held camera-work is a nice touch, and the dark and grainy film stock lends a certain low-fi analogue appeal, but such aesthetic niceties are rendered redundant thanks to Orsmby's incompetence as both a writer and actor. There are a couple of scenes that are genuinely arresting the sight of the undead scrambling out of their graves to the accompaniment of a raucous ambient industrial soundtrack works well, and one of the final shots, of zombies tumbling in to an upstairs bedroom in slow motion has a certain raw and gritty realism about it.
'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' is an ultra low-budget, played-for-laughs, light-hearted zombie flick whose great final act is not compensation enough for an hour of risible and tedious nonsense. But maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe Clark intended this to be the first ever zombie movie for kids. As such, it may be of great value as a preschool introduction to the genre before advancing to better examples.
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