Thursday, 20 October 2016

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

Yesterday I chanced upon some mixed reviews of VCI’s 2016 BR of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, and I was sufficiently enthused to revisit the film last night courtesy of VCI’s ancient DVD edition from 2000. I remember well the disc's Amazon product page which advised customers to view the film in a darkened room due to the transfer’s shortcomings. Watching the VCI disc again, the picture frequently melts into a soupy mess (much more so in the film’s third act) but somehow the discoloration and unstable blacks render the film even more unnerving. The film’s debt to Night of the Living Dead goes without saying, but there are some interesting parallels to look out for with Zombie Flesh Eaters – one is tempted to imagine Dardano Sacchetti having the film in mind when writing the screenplay but perhaps not. I’m so familiar with the film at this point, I devoted much of my attention on this pass to Carl Zittrer’s terrific electronic score, and I particularly enjoy the synthesized howling and wailing which adds tremendous atmosphere to those long dialogue scenes in the graveyard. The score rises to truly Industrial proportions in the sequence where the dead worm their way out of the ground - it must have been something to experience this in a well-equipped theatre. A CD collecting Zittrer’s experimental scores for Children, Deathdream, Deranged and Black Christmas is long overdue.

All this talk about Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things has unearthed a memory of two VHS copies I had of the film in the early 90's. My introduction to the film was under less than auspicious circumstances courtesy of True World Video, one of those dubious labels that seemingly sprang up overnight on UK video market like a bad fungus. True World put out the film as Revenge of the Living Dead, and came in a hideous cut and paste sleeve with some zombie graphics lifted from a mask advert that frequently appeared in the pages of Fangoria, and augmented with two unrelated film stills on back cover. This was the kind of junk that would routinely snare me in those carefree VHS-collecting days.

My second encounter with the film was even more memorable, this time thanks to the tiny Screen In Doors label which issued the film, under its original title, but crucially with one of the most bizarre sleeves from the post-certificate era. Mike Worrall's wraparound painting suggests a certain Giger influence, no doubt the artist had the creature from xenomorph from Alien(s) in mind although oddly enough the monster anticipates the hybrid creature from Alien Resurrection. Screen In Doors were so pleased with Worrall's work that they chose, rather enigmatically I think, to relegate the title of the film to the spine and back sleeve. I've uploaded a larger scan of the sleeve here for the VHS art junkies - this one is a keeper.

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