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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2012-Day 3: CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1973)

This low-budget late-hippie-era zombie flick played endlessly on the NYC area's Channel 9 and became a beloved favorite to many of my peers. I was never much of a fan but I admit that I had not seen the film since I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, so I figured I'd give it a second chance and sit through it again for this year's month-long horror movie retrospective.

An early effort from director Bob Clark — the guy who gave us both PORKY'S (1982) and A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) — the film tells the story of what happens when a pack of thoroughly obnoxious early-1970's stage actors spend the night on a burial island for criminals and mockingly perform a Satanic ritual with the half-hearted intent of reviving a corpse named Orville. At first nothing happens, but in short order all of the island's corpses vacate their graves and pull a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by besieging the abandoned house that the actors have taken refuge in. Once the actors are down the gullets of the ravenous revenants, the zombies storm the actors' sailboat and make for the mainland. THE END.

Sounds like a fairly straightforward setup for horrific mayhem, right? Well, the film runs roughly 87 minutes, over an hour of which is spent on the bitchy, uninteresting antics of the theater troop, and when the zombie feeding frenzy finally occurs, it's way too little way too late. The attempts at clever, humorous dialogue fall flat and there are no truly effective scares — the zombie siege is too blatantly derivative of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), only minus that film's sheer terror — so what we have here is an almost total loss that is unlikely to please (or even interest) audiences in the 2000's.

While I know there are those out there who would willingly sit through two hours of nothing but a blank screen so long as it had the word "zombie" projected onto it, I cannot for the life of me fathom this film's undying cult popularity. Your mileage may vary, but I say life's too short to waste on feeble horror duds.



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