Halloween Horrors 2011 : “Children Of The Living Dead”

Posted: October 26, 2011 in movies
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Zombies — they’re everywhere these days. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — your humble host is digging the hell out of AMC’s The Walking Dead, for instance, and even though hardly anybody outside the die-hard horror community is paying attention, the master himself, George Romero, is back in fine form with his latest, truly independent undead film series. The recent zombie boom isn’t all great news, though, as some real stinkers have made it onto (straight onto, if you must know) DVD in the last decade or so since films like 28 Days Later and Shaun Of The Dead placed the shambling, flesh-eating corpses of the recently-departed back into the forefront of the public consciousness.

Case in point — director Tor Ramsey’s 2001 DTV effort, Children Of The Living Dead.

The title, of course, tries to tie this film in somehow with Romero’s original Night,  and while the budgets of the two films are probably in the same general ballpark, any similarities between the two unfortunately end there. This flick is a pure, unadulterated stinkbomb.

First off, on the purely technical front, there are the sort of things going on that even high-school filmmakers generally avoid — camera and mic shadows, horrendously wooden sub-standard “acting,” half-assed, unprofessional editing — the list is endless. All of which this critic could easily overlook if the film had some sort of sense of humor about itself and at least copped to, if not downright celebrated, its many, varied, and quite noticeable shortcomings. But this particular movie takes itself  so seriously , despite a storyline (more on that in a minute) that could pass itself off as parody or even Troma product, that you just can’t help but hate the thing.

I mentioned the story just now and for the sake of maintaining not only your interest but your very sanity itself I’ll keep this brief — dead serial murderer/rapist Abbot Hayes disappeared from the morgue in 1987, and shortly thereafter a zombie infestation swept his (Pennsylvania, I think — another nod to The Master/attempted Night tie-in) hometown. Many locals lost their lives in the battle and only a handful of aged residents with nowhere else to go remain in the area. Now, however, 15 years later, a shady businessman (who’s new in town, naturally) has surreptitiously moved the bodies from the local cemetery into one big mass grave of the sort we always accused Saddam Hussein of having (another charge that was never really proven) and Hayes gets all riled up and emerges as the king of a zombie army out to seek revenge on the living — again.

It’s when we really delve into the backstory of Hayes — a move that Ramsey and screenwriter Karen L. Wolf absolutely had no need to make — that things get truly laughable. Hayes became a raping, murdering maniac, and later rose from the dead, because he was — -get this — pissed at his mom for making him wear girls’ clothes as a child! In other words, this is no zombie king that the late, great Edward D. Wood, Jr. would ever have conceived of, even if this film has Wood-like production values (minus any and all of the charm and insanity Ed brought to any given production).

As far as the “stars” of this picture goes, the only one you’re bound to recognize is Tom Savini, who plays one of the local deputies, and even he’s quite clearly just mailing it in. In truth, his talents would have been much better served in the effects department here, because the zombies (as well as all the related blood, viscera, entrails, etc. that always accompany them one way or another) look like crap. I mean, community-theater-level crap.

If you really must see Children Of The Living Dead — and trust me, you don’t have to — it’s available on DVD from Artisan Entertainment. It’s a widescreen transfer with 5.1 sound and no extras, if memory serves me correctly. Or at least no extras worth remembering. But honestly, friends, you’re much better off avoiding this at all costs. I used to think that I could be reasonably entertained by pretty much any flick that had zombies in it, no matter how lackluster or completely bereft of anything resembling coherence or production values. Just get them corpses walking, I figured, and I’m all in. Children Of The Living Dead proved me — no pun intended — dead wrong.

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