A. Zombie Reviews . . . Children of the Living Dead
By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Tom Savini, A. Barrett Worland, Damien Luvara, Jamie McCoy, Sam Nicotero, Marty Schiff, and Heidi Hinzman
Often when artists strive to find inspiration, they look to the past. For genre fans, there’s only a few franchises which define zombies in pop culture. Unfortunately, when it comes to grasping the same energy as the original films, that’s like trying to wrestle a greased zombie rabbit into a tutu. Sometimes the heart behind something can push past an obstacle or two. Children of the Living Dead doesn’t have that to fall back on. It’s a lackluster homage to the more ridiculous side of the living dead.
Life in a small town is hard enough, what with the gossip networks having so few souls to pick on and all. One town in particular has it worse than most after an incident in the late 60s left them fending off the living dead. They won, but only for a little while. In ’87, the dead rise again. This time notorious rapist Abbot Hayes returns and promptly resumes his kidnapping ways. Hot on his trail are deputies Hughs and Randolph. Only Randolph and the rescued children survive the encounter. Hayes gets away, laying low for fourteen years. One afternoon, he’s intrigued by a group partying on his mother’s grave, then he gets angry. The concert-goers make it less than a mile down the road. Hayes scares them over a cliff. After the funeral, he interrupts a couple grave robbers in order to collect the accident victims, turning them into his personal army. A year later, Hayes’ family property is sold to a car dealership. In order to build the showroom, the crew first has to remove the family cemetery’s occupants—they opt for mass burials over the hefty cost to move them to another cemetery, as any scuzzy contractor would. Hayes doesn’t take kindly to the Michaels’ family and their plans for his home. His army attacks, ever-growing as they move further into town seeking revenge . . . and a snack.
This is probably the slowest zombie movie I’ve seen to date. Not even the opening sequence with Savini is punchy enough to grab the audience and drag them along for the ride. There’s rarely a viable sense of urgency which isn’t artificially inflated with awkward dialog. For heaven’s sake, there’s a five minute scene with Hayes—a mute zombie who moves slightly faster than a slug—shuffling through the woods outside his family home, like that’s supposed to make us lean in for the kill that’s surely about to happen. It’s like watching Deadpool kill that guy with the Zamboni, but without the witty dialog to save it from being laughably bad. The final fight is such a waste of time, as well. Nothing of note happens. [Spoilers!] Hayes walks off unscathed. Our heroes live to see tomorrow. The dead are, for the most part, contained. What is at stake? Humanity wins the day again. Without his father in the way, Matthew Michaels can build the family empire in his name. Laurie yet again escapes Hayes’ grasp without injury. I’m all for a happy ending occasionally, but there has to be a resolution to at least one story line which isn’t so open-ended it’s like they assumed people would clamor for a sequel instead of calling them out for failing to commit to the story. The poor time management and overuse of time jumps is likewise to blame for limp motivation for the characters. For example, here’s Hayes, a guy who just loves to kill and he’s been reanimated, given a second life where he can wallow in gore. Yet we’re supposed to believe he’s content to live alone in his house, next to a major road, without incident for fourteen years. His brand is murder and mayhem, that part obviously doesn’t change after his death, so why does he twiddle his thumbs?
There’s some decent FX makeup in this film. Hayes’ face will stick in your memory thanks to the detail work. As will the awkward as hell gloves the poor actor has to wear. Watching him “grab” things is cringe-inducing. The wound appliances for the undead are great, but often the detail is lost in the poor image quality and copious blood. That’s where the good makeup ends. The standard for these zombies is, for some unfathomable reason, pale greasepaint and blood. On the same zombie we’re getting quality wound work, and a teenager’s attempt at Halloween makeup. It’s a head-scratcher, that’s for sure.
Honestly, this script needed a hefty revision before they started shooting. There’s so many plot holes, and even more plot threads left in the wind at the end in a most unsatisfactory way. Cliffhangers are a cop-out. Even with how slow the film is, plus the ever-repeating dialog, and underwhelming zombies, if they just stuck a solid ending I was ready to forgive a lot of the bad. But they didn’t. Children of the Living Dead gets one bloody, matted clump of hair out of five.