The first horror movie directed by unpredictable filmmaker Bob Clark—whose body of work includes A Christmas Story (1983), Porky’s (1981), and several gruesome fright flicks—Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a schlocky enterprise redeemed by its sense of humor. In fact, the picture is a full-on comedy/horror hybrid, with the satirical aspects of the story connecting more strongly than the would-be scares. Set on a tiny island off the Miami coast, the movie is about an eccentric theater director who brings his company along while performing a black mass. Things get out of hand when the ceremony actually works, so the actors and designers who thought they were out for an evening of kinky thrills find themselves running from bloodthirsty zombies. The story, credited to Clark and leading man Alan Ormsby, is forgettable. However, the execution is enjoyably whimsical, at least with regard to dialogue. Ormsby, who went on to pen scripts for several fine movies (including the 1980 feel-good hit My Bodyguard and the sexy 1982 remake of Cat People), has special fun contriving lines for his own character, using absurdly elevated patterns of polysyllables to ensure that the theater director comes across as a pompous ass. Interestingly, Ormsby also received credit for doing the picture’s special-effects makeup, so his immersion in all things macabre permeates the project. To be clear, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a film of meager pleasures, and there’s no overlooking the shoddiness of the production values. Photographed entirely at night, the movie has a garish look because bright lamps were used to illuminate shadowy locations, and, generally speaking, the lights were hung without much artistry. The sound is poor, as well, with many scenes obviously looped to compensate for inadequate location recording. The acting is amateurish but lively, and Ormsby’s makeup effects for the undead creatures runs to the campy side of the spectrum. Worse, the movie grows tedious once the zombie attack begins. Nonetheless, there’s a certain acidic wit to the piece, and the filmmakers clearly have no illusions of generating high art. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things may also include cinema’s only black mass riddled with Borscht Belt one-liners.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things: FUNKY