Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972) Review

Alan Ormsby isn’t a name that comes to mind with most fans of horror, but perhaps it should. He’s a man of many talents, boasting more than a passing ability with make-up effects, acting, writing and directing.

He even designed a toy in the mid seventies called Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces that fetches good money on eBay.

But where I know him from is the 1972 movie Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, the first film from Bob Clark who went on to great fame later with films like Porkys and Black Christmas.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a weird film… and a lot of people simply don’t like it very much… I was tempted to say “don’t get” it, and this might be true, but it also implies that theres actually something TO “get”…

Which to be honest may not be true either.

The film might be as bad as they say…

In all honesty I don’t really know.

All I know is that I like it… And a lot of the reason for my attraction to the film is BECAUSE its weird.

I guess I’m just that kinda guy…

Alan Ormsby plays Alan… almost everyone plays a character named after them in this film, which leads me to think that theres a lot of ad-libbing going on and they just didn’t want too much dead-naming to slip into the finished film.

Alan is the head of a theatre troupe, and possesses all of the self aggrandisement and pretentiousness associated with such a role.

In short, Alan is a knob, Alan is a cockknocker, Alan is a twat…

…There was something kind of cathartic about saying all that, I wonder why?

Anyway, this prize wally take his troupe to a small island with a suspiciously large cemetary and bullies the actors into performing a ritual. Now this ritual might just be for shock value, it might just be that it appeals to Alan’s sense of arrogance, or he might actually think something might happen.

But of course something DOES happen and the troupe are sieged by the revenants raised from the unfeasably large cemetary.

Like a lot of my favourite films theres nothing remarkable about the plot of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, its something you’ve seen countless times I’m sure, but its the approach Ormsby and Clark takes that makes the film so entertaining to me.

Though perhaps not for you…

Alan is just so good to hate, he’s sarcastic and verbose in his dealings with his … loosely lets call them “friends”… is cruel and petty…

And, yes I have a cruel sense of humour, but its also pretty funny.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is set up much like a stage play, most of the “action” – again lets use that term loosely – is set in one location and even the external locations feel as if they are on a set.

I wonder if a stage play version has ever been produced, or even a musical version of the film. I could easily see a musical in much the same vein as the Evil Dead musical working very well, but I guess much like Evil Dead The Musical it would have too limited an appeal to be financially viable.

There was a remake planned in 2010, and I remember the announcement clearly because of my strong adverse reaction to it. I’m not against remakes as a rule but some films should never be touched, either they worked for some obscure reason that could probably not be replicated or they are so odd that any remake would discard what made them special.

Or sometimes they just aren’t that good.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things might fit in any of those categories.

What I do like about this film is the dialogue, the exchanges between the characters has a punchyness that is unusual in film. The dialogue reminds me of a bargain basement version of a Tom Stoppard play, with clever exchanges that often say far more than they seem to on the surface. Ormsby is gleeful in his characters cruelty and though he gains control through this cruelty it seems clear that this is not the purpose, that the purpose of the cruelty is for its own sake; and that the control is little more than a happy symtom.

This approach is pretty usual for a horror related movie.

Not that this is really a horror film, not strictly speaking at least; but I suppose we can’t call a zombie movie anything else.

This movie never tries to scare its audience and its attentions lies elsewhere. Its more concerned with the manipulation of words and the cruelty between the characters than the menace the living dead represent.

Like I said, its a weird film.

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