Friday, February 17, 2012

Honourable Mention: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

This was a film that always struck me as seeming a wee bit too zombie for inclusion on Vampire Filmographies. However, appear it does and also it is one of the films on the DVD set Vampire Collection Vol. 2.

However, looking at the pedigree for a second, it was a 1973 film directed by Bob Clark. Clark, the very next year, would go on to bring us the zombie/vampire crossover film Deathdream. This does not have the same crossover qualities. It does, however, have somewhat of a vampiric opening – hence this is getting an Honourable Mention rather than a ‘Vamp or Not?’

fanged creature
It begins in a graveyard and a caretaker (Alecs Baird) walks between graves and trees. He sees a figure (Roy Engleman) up ahead, spade in hand, and approaches. The figure turns and lunges forward, his face looks decayed and he sports fangs. A second ghoulish creature (Robert Philip) appears, wearing a cloak. They pull the corpse from the grave and the fanged one lies in its place, closing the lid. The second fills the grave.

Alan Ormsby as Alan
A boat moors at an island. The people aboard are a theatre troupe, the director and owner of the troupe – Alan (Alan Ormsby, who co-wrote both this and Deathdream as well as having a role in Deathdream) – is somewhat of a despot. He has forced them, with threats to their contracts, to come to the island. They, incidentally, are Paul (Paul Cronin), Terry (Jane Daly), Jeffery (Jeff Gillen), Val (Valerie Mamches) and Anya (Anya Ormsby).

the troupe
He gives them a tour through the island like a macabre Barnum, telling them of the cottage and the graveyard. He shows them the graveyard, the paupers section were bodies are buried willy-nilly and the hallowed ground where, he claims, a man of unspeakable evil is buried. He takes them to the cottage and some of the troupe believe they hear something – unseen the cloaked figure follows them. At one point he mentions vampires whilst using a Lugosi-esque accent.

I have garlic
When they get to the cottage he explains that it has been empty for two years since the caretaker went mad and killed his wife and two children. Later he suggests there was a new caretaker hired but he hung himself. He intends – he has told them – to unearth a corpse. He reveals more. In his trunk he has a wizard’s robe, a rifle, garlic (as a bane to keep the dead away if necessary) and a grimoire. He reveals he intends to raise the dead as servants to himself. All through this section we get a lot of hokey dialogue, but it fits the larger than life characters. Each one is bitchy and flawed and they are all great fun – including the dislikeable Alan.

could it all be a joke
They head back to the graveyard and Alan picks a grave marked Orville Dunworth (Seth Sklarey) and we recognise the grave that the fanged creature usurped. He has Paul and Jeffrey unearth the coffin and open it up. He then suggests that Jeffery picks the corpse from the grave, dismissing his “Count Dracula appearance” as the weird things that decomposition does. As Jeffery goes to lift the corpse it grabs him and the cloaked one grabs a fleeing Terry…

Orville disrespected
Alan is in hysterics, the two creatures are other members of the troupe, Roy and Emerson, in on his joke. Here we leave the vampiric behind and whilst it is just someone acting as a vampire it is worth an honourable mention. From here on in we get Alan insisting on doing his ritual, using Orville as a ritual corpse. When it fails he insists on taking the corpse back to the cottage (there are comments about corpse beauty and a bizarre mock wedding between Alan and Orville – not to mention a comment, as he gazes at the corpse on a bed, about getting closer – all of which hint at necrophilia).

zombie, gut muching
However, his ritual (or perhaps Val’s, as she did a mock ritual, cursing Satan, when his seemed to fail) has actually worked but the dead are vengeful rather than under anyone’s will. They kill Emmett and Roy barely escapes, critically wounded. The dead also get the poor old caretaker who was tied up and gagged behind a tree. Then they follow Roy to the cottage and we get an under siege by zombies scenario. The question is, of course, will any of the troupe escape?

Despite the low budget and poor, poor lighting, this was a cracking little cult B. Ultimately a zombie movie but nodding its head to the vampire genre at the beginning. The imdb page is here.



Alex said...

The horror segments are pretty well done, like graveyard resurrection. Just to bad it takes forever for the zombies to show up.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Its yechnically not a great film. but it does have something. I agree, somewhat, about how long it takes them to show up but I also like how quickly they despatch the actors :)