Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972)

I have no idea why at some point I thought this movie had Vincent Price in it.  I wonder if there was some later trailer where he did a voiceover, as I remember this being advertised either for some late, late show or other horror-related release on television.  It's possible someone was doing an imitation when advertising it, since the original trailer's narrator doesn't sound a bit like him.  I had wondered down the years how Bob Clark got Price to star in an early low-budget picture of his.

He didn't, of course.  This was a project he worked on with lead actor and co-writer Alan Ormsby, who would himself go on to direct the movie Deranged, one of a number of films based on Ed Gein.  Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things was supposed to be a bit of a horror comedy rather than a serious fright film, and whenever I've seen it pushed over the years it has been treated like some sort of forgotten classic.  Since Clark's early career forays into horror - Dead of Night and Black Christmas - were solid entries in the genre, and Porky's was quite the successful comedy, I figured Children would follow suit. 

Alan (Alan Ormsby) leads his acting troupe to a deserted Florida island one night under the pretense of doing a Satanic ritual in order to raise the dead.  His girlfriend Anya (Anya Ormsby) is the only one really believing in him, but since he's the one signing the paychecks everyone else goes along.  That includes another couple, Paul (Paul Cronin) and Terry (Jane Daly), as well as actors Jeff (Jeff Gillen) and Val (Valerie Mamches).  

After digging up the corpse of a man name Orville (Seth Sklarey) but failing to raise the dead, Alan decides to take the corpse back to the cottage belonging to the cemetery's caretaker (Alecs Baird) and have a little fun, despite Anya warning him that he shouldn't be disrespecting the corpse.  The rest of the group, tiring of Alan's behavior, decide to leave, but not before finding out that the spell was successful.  Now trapped on an island full of living dead they must find a way to survive. 

The last part with the zombie attack isn't too bad, with decent makeup effects and a few tense moments.  Still, it comes across at that point as a low-rent copy of Night of the Living Dead, and certainly not worth sitting through over an hour of listening to Alan's pretentious twaddle.  I know it was done for humor, but that doesn't make having to listen to the garbage flowing out of his mouth, particularly when he delivers his lines like David Lochary but without any of the enthusiasm, any easier.  It's one of those strange cases where the acting isn't as bad as the character is, since the character is supposed to be a hammy actor.  Perhaps Ormsby plays it too well, making most of this film unbearable.  

What might have made it more interesting is if anything happened for the first hour other than the group bickering, running around the graveyard and playing with a corpse.  Other than one scare that turns out to be a prank there is absolutely nothing of substance.  To Clark's credit he doesn't do a horrible job behind the camera considering this is just his second feature and he pretty much did not have a budget to speak of.  However, it is almost as if he shouldn't have bothered, because the outcome is devoid of both horror and comedy, and is a boring, excruciating experience. 

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972)
Time: 87 minutes
Starring: Alan Ormsby, Anya Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeff Gillen, Paul Cronin, Jane Daly
Director: Bob Clark



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