Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972) Review


Hey Timmy! Bobby! Y’all better put that dead thing down and come here! Don’t you know children shouldn’t play with those things? Now you just sit down here a spell while I tell you a cautionary tale as to why.

You see, there was this small theater troupe that once took a trip to a graveyard island for the express purpose of digging up a corpse. Why? I don’t know. Stop asking stupid questions. Anyways, this group consists of Alan, the arrogant leader, space-cadet Anya, sarcastic Val, fat funny guy Jeff, pretty ingenue Terry, and beefy Paul. All of the characters (with the exception of Val) seem genuinely terrified of Alan who threatens them with unemployment whenever they go against his will. So when he suggests they summon up the dead from their graves using a spellbook they gamely go along with it.


The spell doesn’t seem to take, but determined to have their fun, the “children” decide that a freshly dug up corpse named “Orville” looks like a good thing as any to play with and hence poor Orville is forced to go through several humiliations including a resurrection ceremony, a mock wedding and possibly even a necrophiliac relationship. What’s that kids? What’s necrophilia? Ask your mother.

But see what happens is, the spell eventually does work. And that, kids, is when the real fun begins.

Children was directed by Bob Clark, who would later go on to direct such classics as Black Christmas (a personal favorite of mine), A Christmas Story and Porky’s and while it’s pretty dated, and more than a little low-budget, this film’s a lot of fun with plenty of seventies cheese, campiness and an overall retro feel that’s disarmingly charming. The make-up is well done too. Alan Ormsby was doing double duty as both the main character and the core make-up artist on the film and his work is vastly underrated. He may have missed a neck make-up here and there, but the zombies are effectively creepy and no two look alike.


But special kudos must be given to the actor playing Orville. Not only does he wear the make-up well, but you’d be convinced the guy was really dead. He remains motionless while he is wedded, groped, carried and shunted about with nary a twitch of the eye, or the slightest body movement. He does indeed look like a unmoving corpse, until…well you have to see the ending. The ending is nothing short of brilliant and is a great comeuppance for a certain character you love to hate.

Although this is one of my favorites, there are many that won’t have the patience for this film. Most of the movie consists of the theater group running around with the corpse and the actual horror doesn’t really start until three-quarters of the way in. Also, there’s really no plot to speak of, no real reason why the theater troupe is there, no reason why they dig up a corpse, and REALLY no reason why they listen to Alan at all, especially when he treats them so terribly. But it’s still a fun ride, provided you check logic at the door and just enjoy.

So you see children why I told you to stop playing with that – hey put that thing down! I mean it!

Oh wait…that thing’s not dead.


Rating: 7 out of 10

About the Author

Cheryl can stop playing with dead things anytime she wants to. She just doesn’t want to. Hit her up on Twitter at @FeralCherylZ

18 thoughts on “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972) Review

  1. I love this film, nay, absolutely adore this film. One, the title itself. Two, the whole campiness surrounding it. It’s one of those movies you want the living in it go get their just rewards – for stupidity.

  2. I love this film as a great time capsule of 1972. What great outfits this kids wore, especially those striped pants! Good god! Oh, how I miss Bob Clark. His movies ran the total gamut of variety and genres.

  3. I absolutely love this film, but I can’t find anywhere to watch it online or a DVD, I saw it on the Horror channel a while ago and haven’t seen it since! Brilliant film xo

  4. I remember watching this, with my my Mom, as a child. I haven’t thought about it in such a long time but remember it was great, cheesy fun! One of the few modern zombie movies I was allowed to watch at such a young age. I’ll have to get the DVD, now.

  5. This movie RUINED me as a kid. It was my first zombie flick (hadn’t seen “Night of the Living Dead” yet), watched it by myself on a rainy afternoon. SPOILER: The hot chick gets dragged off and eaten. I wasn’t prepared for that.
    Subsquent viewing, however, proved this to be quite the charmer.

    1. Yes I remember watching it as a kid and being scared of the blood (and there wasn’t much of it) as a child. When you’re grown up, it’s super fun to watch. 😉

  6. Great review. This really is one of the lesser-known horror gems of the 1970s, an inspired riff of parts of “Night of the Living Dead.” … The first thing I’d recommend to anyone who watches it is: Turn the volume up and limit outside sound distractions — the sound design on this movie is spectacular for such a low-budget movie. The ambient sounds of the outdoor scenes and the minimalist soundtrack make this movie much creepier than it probably had any right to be. The “outdoor” stuff also seems even more claustrophobic than the interiors, and the sound effects tighten the noose.

    I love Val and Anya. If this film ever gets a remake (and I understand that Bob Clark was close to remaking it himself before his untimely death 10 years ago) it should be from one or both of their perspectives.

    I haven’t listened to the DVD commentary, but I’m now motivated to do so. I think this remains firmly in my 5 favorite zombie movies.

    1. Thanks Chris. And yes, listen to the commentary – It’s with the actors who played Alan, Anya and Terry – they have some awesome insight and it’s a great listen to boot.

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