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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (VCI Entertainment) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (VCI Entertainment) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: VCI Entertainment
    Released on: December 6th, 2022.
    Director: Bob Clark
    Cast: Alan Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeff Gillen, Anya Ormsby, Paul Cronin, Jane Daly
    Year: 1972
    Purchase From Amazon

    Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things – Movie Review:

    In Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Alan Ormsby (who also wrote and starred in Clark’s Deathdream) plays Alan, a stage director who is obsessed with the occult. He brings a few select members of his company to a remote island where the long forgotten corpses of whoever used to live there lay buried beneath the ground. As you could have probably guessed at this point, no good will come of that.

    Alan’s intent is to hold a black mass of sorts, an arcane ritual that he hopes will raise the dead and somehow give him further closeness with his dark lord and master, but not before he plays a prank on his band of actors and actresses. Alan does just that but in order to do so he digs up a corpse and uses it in his arcane rite. When he doesn’t get the results he’d hoped for, Alan brings the corpse back with him to the remote cabin where he and his cohorts are holing themselves up for the night. What Alan doesn’t realize is that his ceremony was more successful than he first thought, and that soon enough the group is going to find that they’re surrounded by hordes of the living dead…

    Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, aside from having the distinction of owning one of the coolest titles of all time, works primarily not on the strength of its story or its performers but on the merits of a few completely twisted set pieces. Much of the dialogue feels completely contrived and is poorly delivered with a lot of the humor, presumably intentional, falling very flat. The actors (none of whom are children and some of whom look to be in their late thirties) are at times awkward and out of place and you can guess the ending to the picture about ten minutes into it. However, Clarke succeeds in creating a really strange atmosphere throughout the movie. Both he and leading man Ormsby wisely allow things to get really dark in tone towards the end of the movie. This makes the predictable finale a lot more interesting than it would have been otherwise, simply because the film makes some pretty drastic tonal shifts in the last twenty-minutes of its running time.

    And then there’s what we don’t see. The inferred necrophilia that occurs when Alan brings his corpse friend into bed with him is a completely ‘wrong’ moment that is oh so right in the context of the movie. In fact, almost all of the interaction with that corpse is wrong, but again, it helps create mood and it shows us that Alan is more than just a poser occultist on an ego trip. He really might have something wrong upstairs after all. There are little nods to this scattered throughout the movie right from the start – while Alan seems amusing at first, if you pay attention as the story evolves, you’ll see that underneath that happy-go-lucky beatnik exterior there’s a very dark character. Ormsby plays this part well, never overdoing it no matter how close he occasionally comes, and putting an emphasis on black humor during the appropriate moments in the film where that’s called for.

    Clark would go on to make better films like Black Christmas and Deathdream (Christmas Story too!), and he’d go on to make some truly horrible films as well (Baby Geniuses comes to mind), but Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things remains a unique part of his filmography and an interesting chapter in the early part of his career.

    Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things – Blu-ray Review:

    Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things gets its worldwide UHD debut from VCI framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an HVEC encoded 2160p transfer, there’s no HDR or Dolby Vision enhancement on the transfer. This isn’t going to be your new home theater demo disc, but it does look noticeably better than the past Blu-ray and DVD editions. There does appear to be some mild DNR throughout the movie as there isn’t much in the way of visible grain here (though to be fair, there is some), but it isn’t a complete sandblasting job like it was on the 2016 Blu-ray edition. Colors are also noticeably improved and there’s more depth and texture to the image in general. Keep in mind, those early dark scenes that were always too dark? They’re still too dark, that’d presumably be the way that the movie has always looked (past DVD and Blu-ray editions back that up), but the visible crush on display in these darker scenes doesn't help things. Black levels look pretty good and flesh tones look considerably better and a fair bit more natural than they did on the last release, the older disc looking waxy and too pink by comparison. The screen caps below are from the accompanying Blu-ray and the UHD does provide slightly better image quality than that Blu-ray does, but they serve as a pretty accurate point of reference.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language LPCM 2.0 Mono mix which sounds pretty much the same as the track on the previous Blu-ray edition. Optional English language closed captioning is also provided for the feature only. The audio is about as good as it can be here, some minor level fluctuations do pop into the mix from time to time as does some occasional hiss, but this has some depth and range to it, particularly when it comes to the movie’s quirky score.

    The extra features section on this disc is a mix of old and new (mostly old, if you’ve got VCI’s past DVD and Blu-ray special edition releases, but it is important that these supplements be carried over). Things start off nicely with a commentary track (recorded in June of 2007) courtesy of the film's stars, Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly (who played Terri) and Anya Cronin (Ormsby's ex-wife!) which has been moderated by David Gregory (of Severin Films). This is a pretty interesting listen as all three share some fun stories about the film and its shoot. Ormsby has the most to say about the film and manages to point some interesting tidbits about the locations and some of the supporting actors in the film, but all three of the participants have their say here and it's nice to hear about the making of the film from those who were there.

    The UHD also includes a trailer for the feature as well as a seventy-three minute documentary titled Dreaming Of Death: Bob Clark’s Horror Films. This is primarily made up of interviews with Chris Alexander, Simon Fitzjohn, Paul Zaza, Richard Backus, Lynne Griffin and Ken Goch. This is an interesting chronological look back at Clark's legacy in the horror genre, going over the making of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things with some fun memories shared of the low budget Florida-based production, the shift in tone with the more serious Deathdream and what sets it apart from other zombie films, his work as a producer on Deranged, his slasher classic Black Christmas and last but not least, Murder By Decree. It’s a well put together and thorough look back at the man and his work, going over his personality and talents as a director and covering what he was like to work with while also exploring the importance and influence of some of his genre efforts.

    There are also two Blu-ray discs that are included inside the black keepcase (stacked on top of one another). The first Blu-ray contains the same extras that are found on the UHD and presents the film in a 1080p version of the new restoration.

    The second Blu-ray in the set includes a new 2022 interview with Alan Ormsby that runs just under thirty-four minutes. The audio quality is a mess here so VCI has provided subtitles to make it understandable. Here, Ormsby shares a few memories from the making of the film, dealing with the low budget, doing the makeup work and acting in a movie for the price time, noting that he was trying to do a Vincent Price impersonation with his character. He also shares some stories about getting along with some of his co-stars, getting the gang back together for a Chiller Theater reunion, how the ending left the door open for a sequel that never happened but which he and Clark did talk about making, how he wound up writing the movie, his relationship with Clark and what he was like to work with, working together on Deranged, why their friendship ended, what it was like shooting in Florida in the early seventies and quite a bit more.

    The nine minute Confessions Of A Grave Digger is an interview with Ken Goch who talks about how he met Bob Clark in his mother's kitchen while he was in high school and how Clark went to university with his brother Gary. They wanted someone to work for low wages to use in a film and Ken came on board. From there, Goch talks about why certain shots were set up the way that they were and how that proved difficult for him and shares some stories from his work on the production.

    Up next is the eleven minute Grindhouse Q&A, where, in May of 2007, the Los Angeles Grindhouse Film Festival held a double feature screening of Deathdream and Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things with Ormsby, Carl Zittrer, Ken Goch, and Albert Fisher, field questions from an enthusiastic audience about their respective efforts on the two films shown that night.

    From there check out a ten minute long featurette entitled Memories Of Bob Clark, that begins by exploring Clark's early work in the film industry before covering some of his best known films like Porky's, Black Christmas and A Christmas Story. From there, the documentary talks about how Ormsby and Clark hooked up and started working together. This gives a pretty decent if slightly skimpy look at the many different types of films that Clark made before allowing the three commentary participants to reminisce about the director and share a few stories and memories about him with us. For some strange reason, the entire featurette is audio over stills, there's no video footage here.

    After that, check out the two music videos that VCI has provided. While these don't relate directly to the feature, they've evidently been inspired by the film. Dead Girls Don't Say No and Cemetery Mary by The Dead Things are far from the most interesting supplements on the disc, but they might appeal to fans of the band. Also included is the puzzling two minute Video Tribute to CSPWDT, in which some cheesy goth-ish music plays over top a selection of stills taken from the film.

    Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery made up of promotional materials and a selection of vintage radio spots. Menus are provided across the board and chapter selection is available for the feature. Note that the trimmed down UK release of the movie that was included as part of the two-disc Blu-ray edition and accompanying commentary track have not been included on this edition.

    Inside the case is a color booklet of liner notes written by Patrick McCabe titled Bob Clark’s Dead Things: Low-Budget Horror In The Sunshine State. It should also be noted that the cover art for this release is reversible and it comes with a slipcover.

    Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things – The Final Word:

    A quirky and odd zombie film, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things holds up. It’s an entertaining, if twisted, little horror comedy hybrid performed by a game cast and helmed by a talented director with an eye for macabre humor. The new UHD/Blu-ray edition from VCI doesn’t offer a reference quality picture but it does provide a definite upgrade in picture quality compared to what we’ve seen before. As far as the extras go, most of what past editions have contained has been carried over here, and the new interview with Ormsby and the documentary on Clark’s horror pictures are both sure to please fans of the film as they’re quite interesting.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things Blu-ray screen caps!

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    • bgart13
      #1
      bgart13
      Senior Member
      bgart13 commented
      Editing a comment
      How’d you say the compression is for the Uhd, Ian?

    • Ian Jane
      #2
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      Not perfect, but not bad. This is a decent upgrade even if it isn't perfect.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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