Retro Review: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) -

Retro Review: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

“Get out of the grave, Alan. Get out of the grave and let an artist show you how to call a curse down on Satan!”
You know those films that you have heard about forever but never had the chance to see? Those films that you built up in your mind as being the end all be all of that type of film solely because a magazine article said some nice things about it. Well for me, that film was Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. I had seen so many lurid pics and its reputation was so good, that when I walked into the Tower Records on Ventura Blvd., I about had an orgasm finding a newly released VHS on the shelf. I forget what I was doing that day, but I blew it off to go home and watch this film.
Children begins with an unknown figure exhuming a corpse on a foggy night. I am aware that this usually only happens in horror films but it does set the mood. Before he can finish, the caretaker approaches him, since, well, he’s digging up a body! Damn it! That doesn’t fair too well for our careless Caretaker who is jumped by a second top hatted figure in a vampire cape and fangs. Once he is out of commission, the two body snatchers remove the corpse and one takes its place in the grave. The other fills the whole, effectively burying his partner alive. Yeah, it starts off weird.
 Anyways, soon we are introduced to our actual protags, an actor’s troupe and their tyrannical and diluted director Alan (Alan Ormsby). Also along for the ride is Alan’s current squeeze, Anya (Anya Ormsby), his ex-chickie, Val (Valerie Mamches, Jeffery (Jeffery Gillen), his yes man, and the “good” couple, Paul (Paul Cronin) and Terry (Jane Daly). Yes Jane breaks the mold by actually not using her own name as her character’s name (and also seems to be the only one still acting today).
Alan wants to take the group to the next level by trying some extreme theater exorcises.  The Island once housed a resort, but having fallen on hard times, it’s now used as a potter’s field by the mainland city, burying criminals and various rift rafts. Alan promises them a night of fright and wants to raise the dead. He pulls out a robe and large ancient looking book (everyone has a large ancient book in movies and it makes me feel that my vast library is inadequate for not containing one). Ok, done with my digression, back to our story.
Alan proceeds to cast his spell to raise the dead, as the others watch in disbelief and then nothing happens. This angers Alan, as he looks foolish to the rest of the group and is definitely not used to it. To add insult to injury, Val, the mother hen of the group, and his ex-girlfriend, all but kicks him out of the grave and performs her own spell which is eerily powerful sounding before slipping into a Jewish yenta shtick and causing even more laughter than before. It seems that Allan sucks on all counts. He orders the body taken back to the cabin where they will be staying since he’s gonna have his fun one way or another. The problem is that Val’s spell did work and the dead are beginning to rise and they want revenge for Orville’s mistreating.
CSPWDT is the brain child of Alan Ormsby and Bob Clark, the duo behind the ultimate teen sex comedy of its day, Porky’s. Often cited these days as another spin on Night of the Living Dead, I fail to see this and feel the movie stands well on its own merits. Alan handles all the make-up effects in the film and the zombies are some of my favorites. I also love the setts and lighting in this film, they stand out to me as truly creepy and real, especially the room that Orville and Alan share there “moments”.
Alan only acted in this film, though he can be seen in 1974’s Death Dream and Deranged (via photo under a bald wig. He has supposedly stated that he hated the way he looks on camera and that is the main reason he stopped appearing in films. The rest of the cast is actually pretty good since they come off as real weirdoes who would go along with this crazy shit as opposed to “super cool” people that wouldn’t be caught dead on this Island.
Did the whole experience live up to my self-created hype? Yes it did. It features good make up, a creepy and effective grave rising sequence (one of the keys to any zombie film), and decent gore effects (we’re not even gonna get into the weird same sex necrophilia). I was glad when I finally saw this and it made my day. Not that it’s great, but it was satisfying and still is today.


Into 60’s hotrod cool, 70’s horror and 80’s punk. comics, video games.
Favorite Movies:Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, Evil Dead, Texas Chain-saw Massacre, Murder Mansion, etc.

Favorite Music:The Misfits (Danzig era), White/Rob Zombie, X, Marilyn Manson

  • Girl on Gore

    This was a movie I also built up and built up. I found a copy at Bookmans (our super cool used books, dvds, electronics, music, store). I found it very enjoyable. It was just about everything I had expected it would be!! Nice review!

  • Kev D.

    I did find that it lagged quite a bit in the middle, but when the zombies start exploding out of their graves EN MASSE, it makes up for any previously endured slowness or pacing issues.

    This movie will always have a special place in my heart, just for it’s oddness, but Deathdream is actually one of my favorites from the 70s…



    Awesome post!

  • trevor1369

    @Girl on Gore:
    Thank you. That means a lot coming from a seasoned blogger like yourself. :) I love it when someone else can relate to how I discovered a film.

  • trevor1369

    @Kev D:
    Thank you Kev. BTW I thing you should do a podcast for Zombie Hall as Starkwell and Lovelock. That would be great!