Friday, 9 March 2012

From the archives: Children of the Living Dead

The curious thing about blogging is that I feel under pressure to come up with a new post all the time. Unfortunately I only have one thing to really vent spleen about at the moment and I haven't yet formulated my thoughts about the issue so here is a 10 year old crap film review from the Stimpson archives:

Children Of The Living Dead

Where to start with this movie...

I'll start with John Russo.

He was credited as co-creator of the seminal sixties horror film 'Night Of The Living Dead' and, following his spat with Night director Romero in the early seventies, it was decided that he could keep the rights to 'The Living Dead' as a title, and off he went and wrote the frankly appalling novel 'Return Of The Living Dead' (which I actually own and, gods help me, have read). Russo's own script based upon the same novel was later adapted into a great film by Dan O'Bannon who sensibly threw out 90% of Russo's script and started afresh, although Russo still has producer and storyline credit. Meanwhile Romero knocked out some great movies, continuing the saga of the Dead rising to inherit the Earth, and proving that he was the talented one. (Note from 2012: Romero also went on to make Land, Diary and Survival of the Dead, meaning that in retrospect he is now responsible for as many excrutiatingly shit zombie films as good ones, and fully two more than Russo himself. Bummer.) Eager to flog his pony a few miles further down the dirt road Russo eventually returned to the original source of his fame for a reprehensible re-cut of 'Night' complete with new score, new scenes and Bill Hinzman reprising his role as 'graveyard zombie'. If you've seen this then you have a good idea of the total amateurs Russo is hanging with but hey, you ain't seen nothing yet!
If you thought 'Dawn' and 'Day' were the official sequels then you're wrong. We were ALL wrong because in black and white on the back of the DVD case 'Children Of The Living Dead' proudly proclaims itself the rightful sequel!
Anyhoo I stuck it in the player and LO... BEHOLD the GREAT SAVINI! It's true, the first ten minutes is purely Tom Savini versus the walking dead in a field. And a barn. And what a load of crap. It looks like a fan movie, no sync-sound, Savini lines are ADR'd over choppy edits to cover the fact that there was no dialogue whilst shooting the scenes. I guess they thought the tension and drama would override the need for dialogue, until they noticed there was no tension or drama. Savini looks and sounds embarrassed to be there but he gives it a valiant go anyway, even getting out the line 'Hey.. you know they're not attracted to children!' Hallelujah, they may be undead but at least they're not paedophiles! This begs the question as to how the little girl in Night ever got bitten, perhaps they mistook her for a 42 year old trucker. I don't know about you lot but if you said to me 'there's this movie right and the first ten minutes is Savini getting it on with a load of zombies' I'd think, "I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE." If you agree then save yourself the effort and stick a fork in each eye instead. Even better watch 'Slugs' which is hilariously incompetent, rather than just dogshit on a pole.

Q. Can you tell me where to find a diner that serves breakfast? (Asked by our hero of old man at motel)
A.What's that you say? You want to find a miner with a black vest? (old man)

The old man is deaf you see. Thus I provide an example of the rank stupidity of this movie.

I've already touched upon how crappy it looks, sounds and generally is but before I offer any conclusions I wish to address a bugbear.

Day for night filming has been a well used method throughout the history of cinema but when it's badly utilised it's just really really bad. Anyone who saw 'The 4400' will know what I'm talking about. 'Children Of The Living Dead' is right up there with the Timothy Hines 'War Of The Worlds' for taking day for night to a new and wholly pointless level of mediocrity. (Note from 2012: I may be the only person who survived the Hines version as I suspect every other unfortunate who took the plunge may well have eaten their own head in disgust. If this is the case I apologise unreservedly for the obscurity of the reference. well, to the two and a half people that are even reading this of course.) In every other scene the upper third of the screen is so dark that it feels like your ultra-cool sunglasses which you always have perched on the top of your head just keep slipping down and ruining the movie.

Time for another great line. One subplot of the movie is that a greedy company hired to move a graveyard down the road is so cheap and cynical that they decide to remove the headstones, dig up the coffins and move them twenty feet to a large trench. (You'd think a slightly smarter cynical company would just move the headstones and not even bother digging up the coffins but that would have denied the opportunity to slip in the gem that you're about to read.)
Whilst moving a coffin it breaks open and.... it's empty!
Work guy consults a piece of paper and says 'According to the sitemap there should be a body in this coffin...'

One more bit of nitpicking before I give a brief outline of the plot, the foley work is beyond poor. Boots on straw sounds like tap shoes on floorboards.

The Plot:
The original outbreak chronicled by 'Night Of The Living Dead' was contained, the movie opens in the closing stages of the extermination of a more localised outbreak in a small town in Pennsylvania where ex-deputy turned survivalist Hughs (Savini sporting a natty hairdo) is doing his Rambo thing while his cowardly ex-partner avoids any trouble by sitting in his car saying randomly to no-one in particular 'Nothing going on here!' He actually says that without moving his lips too!
Finally he meets up with Hughs and they go to clear out a barn which, unbeknownst to our heroes, is occupied by the zombie of Abbot Hayes, evil dead rapist and murderer. For some reason some kids are hiding out there and our first major plot point is highlighted, 'Zombies don't go for kids!' Hmmmm. Let'spaper over this and move on, long story short, kids rescued, Abbot Hayes does for poor Hughs and we skip forward 14 years.
14 years pass.
14 years and Abbot Hayes is still in the barn.
The barn that had the kids in.
The kids that zombies don't 'go for!'
Cue those very same kids, now looking like teenagers and riding a VW van on their way to a gig.
Abbot Hayes steps in front of their van and...



Yes they drive off a cliff into a randomly placed quarry and they all die.

(Note from 2012: At this stage I should perhaps apologise to the person reading this who doesn't know who Cliff Richard is. And of course anyone offended by the idea of a jeebus-member.)

At their funeral zombie Hayes goes round their coffins and gives them all a bite, apparently turning them into his private little gang of teen zombies! Why? I neither know, nor care.

So that is the setup. Hayes has his children, even though they're not children any more. Or something. The film skips another year and we get the graveyard/contractor subplot, a mini romance and the movie hurtles towards its stunning climax... a siege at a diner. I'm not even going to go into the colossally stupid, continuity gaff filled battle but as I was watching it I laughed. I had a positive response which almost made me think I wasn't robbed after all... almost. In actual fact I was robbed, this movie is a festering turd on the backside of one of the (once) greatest movie sequences of all time. It's a sceptic anal wart. But I think everyone should see it.

[The Good]
Tom Savini's hair.

[The Bad]
Everything else.

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