The Film (3/5)
When Bob Clark died in 2007 he would leave a legacy of films going back over 30 years, but at that point he would be known to mainstream audiences for his film's A Christmas Story and Porky's. However, Clark would get his start in the early 1970's (with collaborator Alan Ormsby) directing a series of horror films that would forever solidify his reputation among horror fans. His Deathdream was a chilling tale of a soldier who died in Vietnam through the power of his Mother's desire came back to life with disastrous results. The most iconic of his horror films would be the slasher prototype Black Christmas which finds an unknown killer stalking the inhabitants of a sorority house. However, Clark would begin with the Florida lensed low budget oddity, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things follows a theater troupe as they visit as island with their heinous director Alan (Alan Ormsby). Alan has come to the island to perform an overblown acting exercise with the troupe in a mock cemetery (adjacent to a real one). The exercise ends up being a mock Satanic ritual to raise the dead, when it doesn’t work they dig up a corpse named Orville and return to their cabin. A little time goes by, and it turns out their ritual though faked did have an effect on the sleeping dead, and they begin to rise and attack the cabin and it's inhabitants.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is an oddball affair. It's a sort of perfect film for late night film viewing. The pacing of the film is quite slow, it blends dark comedy, and character moments, and doesn't quite get to the horror side of things until well into the third act. That being said there is a sense of dread that manages to permeate the atmosphere. The performances are solid throughout, with Alan Ormsby as the jerk of a theater director who gets to chew the most scenery here. He plays Alan as essentially the worst boss these guys have ever had putting them in a terrible situation, constantly threatening them, and their jobs if they don't comply. The zombies in the film look solid, and when they do finally attack the pacing does pick up, and brings the film to a solid and satisfactory conclusion.
VCI actually does quite a solid job bringing Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things into the Blu-ray era. The film is presented with a solid 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer in the films 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The film is a significant upgrade from the DVD release blacks are solid though occasionally veer to gray, colors are natural and well reproduced, and detail is solid throughout. There are instances of DNR throughout the transfer, but it is used sporadically and in a way that keeps detail present in the image.
The audio is presented in English with an LPCM 2.0 track. The dialogue and score sound quite solid for the most part, and they did include subtitles.
Though some of the extras are ported over from their prior editions VCI's Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is quite a packed affair. the disc kicks off with a commentary track with Alan and Anya Ormsby and Jane Daly. There is an alternate UK version of the film (in SD), that also includes a commentary track with Ormsby, both commentaries are moderated by Severin Films David Gregory. Outside of that the Blu features multiple documentary featurettes, interviews, galleries, trailers, TV spots, and radio spots. The release also includes a booklet with excellent liner notes from Mike Kenny from Mike's Pop Culture Playhouse.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things has attained sort of a classic status in the horror genre. It's not a great film, and is hampered by budgetary limitations and pacing issues, yet it has an interesting atmosphere with a darkly comic tone that makes it quite rewatchable. The Blu-ray edition is a definite improvement over past DVD's, and is loaded with extras RECOMMENDED.