10/11/08

Titles Can Often Offer Good Advice (See, I Just Proved It)

Bob Clark must have a strange relationship with Christmas. After all, it takes a special kind of person to direct Black Christmas and The Christmas Story. The former, a slasher movies groundbreaker that features a bevy of sorority babes being tormented by a sexual deviant over the holiday season, and the latter a holiday classic best known for pink bunny suits, leg lamps, and a kid's unwavering desire for a BB gun. I think that after most people watched both; they would be hard pressed to reconcile the director being the same man. Throw into the mix that he was the man behind Porky's, and you might be able to make their head explode. If that doesn't do the trick, then heap on top a viewing of his gaysploitation movie She-Man, and step back before the debris from their spontaneous combustion gets all over you. Tonight we're here to explore another of Bob's early films, and so I bring to you.....


Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) starring Alan Ormsby, Jeff Gillen, Valerie Mamches, Anya Ormsby, Paul Cronin, and Jane Daly. Directed by Bob Clark.

Sometimes when you're watching a horror movie, you have to say to yourself "This sounds like a bad idea." or "I would so be out of there." This movie does that to you from scene one. Alan (Ormsby, all the principals seem to sport their own names as their characters) drags his team of actors to an island with a mysterious graveyard. Other than having magnificent facial hair, Alan is pretty much a major league asshole. He drags his troupe of reluctant actors to a cemetery on the island and regales them with tales of the past caretakers, one having been institutionalized and the other having killed himself. Alan prods his grumbling actors to the deserted cabin of the former caretakers, and there he reveals his plan to perform a satanic ritual to reanimate a dead corpse.



It's established early on that the actors will get fired if they don't go through with Alan's plan, and they seem unwilling to quit their jobs. How good are these roles that this crazy, fey, faux satanic director has that he can hold all these actors hostage over them? If I was given a choice of a) going to a spooky graveyard on an island b) participating in a satanic ritual or c) working at McDonalds, my ass would be a McPloyee the next day and biggie sizing stuff like crazy! That's just me, maybe they were the roles of a lifetime (as if they'd get a chance to find out).

Alan sets the actors up for a big joke with some conspirators hidden away. When they dig up a coffin and open it, the corpse rises up and attacks Jeff. The sadistic director has a good laugh at all their expense, and poor Jeff is left graveside muttering "I just peed my pants.". However the grave had formally housed a body, and Alan makes them drag it out from behind a tree and hang it on a cross like an rotting scarecrow. Alan then goes into a litany of rites to invoke Satan and reanimate the corpse, and when he comes up empty, Valerie take a turn and mocks Alan (and Satan) ruthlessly. With his failure seething in him, Alan makes them carry Orville, the corpse, back to the cabin.

To continure messing with the actors, Alan has them act with the corpse to prove their worth. The man who played the corpse (Seth Sklarey) did a great job at, well, doing nothing. I never once caught sight of a breath or any movement. He was probably the most convincing actor in the room. The troupe finally gets fed up with Alan's hijinx, and one of them shouts at him to "respect the dead". He shouts back "Why? They're losers!". (Projecting much there, Alan?) Orville gets moved into a a side room where Alan's more creepy side comes out in some pillow talk with the corpse. Maybe this was the final straw as the dead finally rise up and start taking out the actors in a visceral climax. Mess with the dead if you'd like but don't come onto them.

You may have noticed that there seemed to be very few characters in the synopsis in comparison to the amount of people I called out in the credits. That's because the other characters were such non-entities that they might as well have not been there. That's kind of how I felt about the film overall for the first hour. It seemed to go on and on with Alan proving that he was a douche bag when I was ready to believe him in the first ten minutes. Yet what redeems this film is the zombie uprising. When they finally show up, I was sold. The makeup on them was well done, for the era of course. I liked that the zombies were neither the shambling messes of earlier fare or the super fast zombies we see in so many films now. They seemed to move with purpose, but without any kind of crazy inhuman abilities. Well, excepting the whole walking around dead and not breathing thing.
Overall, it was a split decision kind of movie for me. The first hour drove me out of my mind, but the ending brought the bacon home and cooked it up in a pan. For people who love zombies, I say go for it and enjoy. For anyone who loves bad 70's acting, you're in heaven, but if you're looking for a film that will entertain throughout and keep you wanting more, then look elsewhere.

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