My daughter has a history of playing with dead animals we’ve found on hikes, I should probably be concerned…
Written By: Bob Clark
Directed By: Bob Clark
Doing my research on Bob Clark I discovered that I had only seen one other horror film from him, Black Christmas. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Black Christmas are like two oddly matched cousins. Both are films that aren’t worthy of the attention they have received in horror circles. Both films were made early in Mr. Clark’s career. Most importantly, and this is where the oddness comes in, both are incomplete films. Black Christmas is all set up and no payoff. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is all payoff and no set up. Both of Mr. Clark’s film try to establish the elements they are missing, there’s certainly more than enough time spent with the characters in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things that I can see why some would confuse that time with set up. However, when the chips are down it’s clear that early in his career Mr. Clark didn’t grasp how to make a compelling film from start to finish.
The easiest criticism to levy against Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is that it is a very stupid film. The first hour and ten minutes is to thank for this stupidity. The characters we meet are shrill, droll, and vapid to an unhealthy extent. They’re also played by actors who very loosely fit the term actor. With a script that’s giving not so great actors surrealist nonsense to spout off it’s no wonder that everything before the payoff in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a big ball of nothing. It’s not just that nothing happens, it’s that the film is inert before the payoff occurs. It has nothing to say about anything, nor does it offer anything interesting in terms of direction, cinematography or score. Everything that occurs prior to the big payoff in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a giant waste of my cinematic life span.
The aforementioned payoff does help to improve Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things somewhat. If anyone actually cares about the ratings I assign to the films I watch they should know that the two stars I gave this film are exclusively for the payoff. Once the zombies hit the scene the film actually shows some energy and Mr. Clark’s direction takes on some verve. During its final twenty minutes Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things becomes a serviceable horror film. It’s still no great shakes as far as memorable horror films go, but it moves beyond being a waste of time. The finale features some decent gore make-up, a few well framed shots, and a final death that is satisfying in a weird way.
Mr. Clark has quite a few fans among the b movie and grindhouse set. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is often talked about in reverent tones among certain members of that set. I’m not about to tell those people that they are wrong, but I will vehemently disagree with their opinion of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. This is the second horror film I have seen from Bob Clark, and I’m not sure if I want to see any of his other horror films. Mr. Clark has yet to show me that he can be a complete horror movie director, and that’s why Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things was a let down and a waste of my horror movie watching time.
The funny thing about this bad little film is it works better when paired with another bad zombie film, House of the Seven Corpses. Both “feel” exactly the same, although the latter has some “star” power behind it with two of the main cast members slumming in a cheap flick. I believe they both use some of the same “plot” elements, as reading from an old musty book always seems to bring forth evil, dead things (heh)…
Those are some tried and true horror tropes. 🙂 I don’t know though, so far Bob Clark and I just seem to not be meshing, as I’ve seen three of his films and not been very impressed with any of the three.
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