Children of the Living Dead is the story of Abbott Hayes, a convicted serial murderer and rapist that was killed in prison and arose from the dead to kidnap children and lead a legion of zombies against people that want to build an auto-mall in place of the cemetery across from his old home. Years after being kidnapped, the children are killed by zombie Abbott Hayes while on their way to a concert, only to rise from the dead as part of his legion of zombies. The construction crew keep finding mysterious things that are happening to the bodies at the cemetery; bodies missing, evidence of live burial. Is this the work of the fabled Abbott Hayes or just vandals and miscreants?
Any way you slice it, this movie is a travesty of cinema. The Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition is supposed to be a prequel to this movie, with the Cemetery Zombie (Bill Hinzman) being Abbott Hayes.
Tom Savini starts out the film as a zombie hunter creatively dispatching zombies with a fine array of fire arms and other improvised techniques. This is all made incredibly goofy by the over-dubbing of simple dialog that could have easily been inner monologue. Since Tom’s mouth isn’t moving, it comes across like the mumblings of Popeye. In fact, the first half of the movie has an exceeding amount of over-dubbed dialog that sometimes obviously doesn’t fit with what’s being shown on screen. There are times when the teenagers look like they are talking and even motioning with their hands, yet the dialog had already stopped long before. Most of this over-dubbed dialog happens while the characters faces are not necessarily shown on screen and comes off as dialog that the ”Mystery Science Theater 3000” cast would be interjecting or something from Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. These are all obvious attempt to “fix” the film in post production, but given that these are all tactics used by comedic groups to deride certain works, it comes off as making a jokes of itself.
There are certain things about the movie that just don’t add up. When the teenagers die, there is a funeral for them. You see their 5 caskets lined up and people standing around them mourning. There is a service, after which everyone departs while the caskets stay lined up and above the ground. I haven’t been to too many funerals, but every one of them, and every one I’ve seen on screen, ends which the casket being lowered into the ground, not just left out to rot. Why would they leave them out like this? Because it makes it easier for the grave robbers to come take their jewelry like it says in the script.
There’s a scene in a diner where Matthew, the son of the man building the auto-mall, goes to see Laurie, the young waitress that has tickled his fancy. He sits down and orders a cup of coffee from her as they chat. Before he even sips the coffee she gives him, she takes the cup away and replaces it with a fresh one and pours another cup. Before he even sips that one, she refills it. Before he even sips the second one, she refills it again. He ends up leaving having never even tasted one of the four cups of coffee that she served.
During the big zombie fight scene at the end, which looks more like a bar brawl scene that should have taken place in the movie Roadhouse, Laurie hides in the store room of the diner while Matthew goes to fight the zombie hordes. She’s left with a handgun and a flashlight. When the power goes out, she fumbles to make the flashlight work. When it does, Abbott Hayes is there, growling in her faces. She screams and cowers on the floor. Suddenly he’s gone and she ventures out of the store room to be attacked by other zombies and subsequently saved by the Sheriff who is able to gun down 6 zombies with 2 shots from the hip. What was that all about?
I really could go on all day about this movie. The fact that it was created with the help of many of the people who made the original Night of the Living Dead is definitely saddening. Tor Ramsey, director of Children of the Living Dead, issued this letter of apology for his involvement with the film along with an account of what he believes went wrong with it. When we saw John Russo at the Flashback Weekend horror convention in Chicago, Nate asked him about Children of the Living Dead in a polite side conversation and he refused to talk about it. I believe that these to things speak mountains about the quality of this film.
Despite all of this, I recommend that everyone with a love for the zombie genre check out this movie, preferably on the cheap, just to see how low it can go. My ceaseless bitching about this movie could never do justice to describing just how bad it is. You really ought to see for yourself.