Children of the Living Dead (2001)
I really hate reviewing movies like Children of the Living
Dead. Why? Because it's bad enough that I had to sit
through it. Now I'm pressured to come up with enough descriptive
adjectives to get across the true dreadfulness of the experience.
If you want to know the quick lowdown without reading a
long review, then all you need to know is that Children
of the Living Dead is more like an "Abortion of
the Living Dead". A true disgrace to filmmaking, I'd rather
smoke a bunch of feline laxatives then watch it again.
Mathew Michaels (Damien Luvara) is helping oversee the construction
of his father's (Philip Bowers) new car dealership in a
rural Pennsylvania town. They secured a good deal on the
land because it formerly used for the local cemetery. The
law, Deputy Randolph (Marty Schiff), has conveniently agreed
to turn the other cheek as they relocate the graves. The
townsfolk, the construction crew, and everyone else nearby
eventually learn the hard way that it's not a good idea
to mess with someone's final resting place. You'd think,
that with a town that has a history of zombie outbreaks,
that there would be some extra care when it came to dealing
with corpses, but as I always say, common sense isn't all
If that's not enough premise for you, this town doesn't
just have zombie outbreaks in its past. It also had its
very own serial rapist/murderer, by the name of Abbott Hayes.
He had been killed in prison, or so everyone thought. It's
not spoiling anything to tell you that he's not dead, though
not quite alive either. They show him pretty early on in
the film and it's not a mystery that he's behind the brand
new undead outbreak around town. In fact, the only mystery
contained anywhere in COTLD is how the film ever
got made in the first place.
The story is old hat, but I still think that a decent film
could have been salvaged from it. The idea of a seemingly
intelligent "leader" zombie is something that you could
work with. The key to that would be to keep Karen Lee Wolf
as far away from the screenplay as possible. She managed
to write one of the most putrid excuses for a script that
I think I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing come
to fruition. It's a complete hack-job from a complete no-talent.
It's not even laughably bad, it's the type of "bad"
where you just sigh and shake your head as you wait for
the next cringe-inducing line of dialogue.and it's never
a long wait.
From what I've read about the behind-the-scenes action,
the vast majority of problems that this movie has can be
laid squarely at the feet of Karen Wolf. She helped produce
COTLD along with her father Joseph Wolf (A Nightmare
on Elm Street) and John Russo (co-writer of Night
of the Living Dead). Director Tor Ramsey has let it
be known that Karen Wolf was obsessive, and indeed on the
verge of lunacy, regarding her script and intense micromanagement
of filmmaking details that she had little experience with
or knowledge of. There were to be no changes in the script,
and Wolf threatened to fire anybody that tried to change
something or who disagreed with her ideas. And you'd think
it would be important research, but apparently she had never
even seen Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead.
If the script wasn't bad enough, it's made worse by the
fact that the entire film was looped, often with dialogue
changes that don't match the actors' mouths or where their
mouths don't even move at all. It comes off looking like
a film school assignment, and a bad one at that.
When the dubbing started, that's when Ramsey says his involvement
ended. Wolf supposedly fired the Pittsburgh crew, shut Ramsey
out, and hired her own editor (Lewis Schoenbrun) to re-edit
the film. And the finished product makes everyone involved
look like they were playing a giant game of grab-ass instead
of trying to make a good movie. It's a shame because you
can tell they had a decent chunk of cash to make it, and
I think a couple of actors could have done a decent job
given a good script. Those being Marty Schiff as the head
Deputy, Sam Nicotero as Dusty the former gravedigger, and
Jamie McCoy as the sweet local girl tried in vane to bring
something to the roles.
Here’s how bad the editing is. In the diner scene
where Mathew is talking to his onscreen love interest Laurie
(Jamie McCoy), she pours him a cup of coffee, much like
any good waitress would do. She sets up some silverware,
and then proceeds to take his cup away and pour a new one
for him. Now he’s yet to even take a sip and he’s
on his second cup. She then wipes up some spillage (how
did it spill? he still hasn’t had a drink yet) and
then pours some more coffee. Then if you’re really
paying attention on the next cut, you can see her still
pouring coffee at the bottom corner of the frame. Then he
leaves without paying a bill of any kind, and without ever
having any of the multiple cups of coffee he was poured.
That's a microcosm of the whole film. That diner scene was
the setup to Mathew and Laurie’s first date. Since
there’s nothing chicks dig more than a first date
at a graveyard, that’s where Matt takes her. He's
obviously an alumni of the Gomez Addams School of Dating.
Ramsey states that this scene was supposed to be at the
end of the movie, but was moved up earlier because Wolf
wanted more “character development”. Well, Karen,
it didn’t work. It just made the characters look really
Remember when I said there weren't any mysteries in COTLD?
I lied. There are plenty. Like why do they wait until dark
to bury the bodies in the cemetery after a funeral? Why
are Abbott Hayes' hands like two times as large as a normal
hand? How did he become undead in the first place? Why doesn't
anybody call the cops when they witness somebody get eaten
by a zombie? Why didn't the guy that got killed and thrown
in a coffin turn into a zombie? There are plenty more, just
watch and make a game of finding more.
The one shred of respectability in the entire film is the
opening 15 minutes. The reason? Tom Savini. The town's previous
zombie outbreak is shown to set up the rest of the movie.
Savini plays a former cop turned survivalist enlisted to
help deal it. What a tease. There's this big group of people
hunting down and exterminating patches of zombies. Lots
of guns, a helicopter, high production value kinda stuff.
Then it turns into a heaping load of crap. Ramsey noted
that the beginning works largely because it was only after
this portion was filmed that Wolf went on her destructive
So who do blame? Was it an arrogant producer's daughter
who killed a potentially decent flick? Or was it just a
combination of bad writing, bad acting, bad directing, and
bad producing all coming together? Ultimately it's the director,
Ramsey, who must shoulder the responsibility. It's the director
who gets the fame, but they also get the blame.
Regardless of whose fault it is, Children of the Living
Dead is a pointless waste of time. The coup de grace
is the ending that just pisses you off. There's a big, goofy
climactic battle in the diner's parking lot and when the
credits roll, nothing has really been resolved. With a $500,000
budget, there's absolutely no excuse for putting out such
(Out of 5)
|October 10 2001
|January 05 2004
|DEAD KEV'S ADVICE
|If you're a fledgling filmmaker, COTLD could
be a very good learning tool. Watch it and learn what
NOT to do. COTLD is bad cinema. Don't bother
|1. It has been learned that zombie bites now infect
already deceased people. Protect your cemeteries.
2. When using dynamite to kill zombies, take care
not to toss one in your own vehicle.
3. When you witness a zombie kill somebody you're
with, it's a good thing to let the authorities know
|-"Abbott Hayes would roll over in his grave if he
saw us partying on the grave of his dead mother."
-"Steve, your attitude really sucks right now."
-"I've seen what's outside and I don't want it to
-"They're zombies. Flesheaters!"
-"Of all the places in all the world my dad could've
picked to build his dealership, he had to pick the
one right down the street from walking dead central."
-"Don't make contact with their teeth."
|Tor Ramsey (Urban Mythology)
|Karen Lee Wolf
|John A. Russo (Santa Claws)
|Joseph Wolf (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
|Karen Lee Wolf (Untitled Thriller)
|A. Barrett Worland
|Westwood Artists International Inc.
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
|Be sure to watch past the credits for the extra
|The cemetery zombie from Night of the Living
Dead, Bill Hinzman, was the director of photography
on the film. His daughter played a prominent zombie,
of the Dead Drinking Game - Jerald's Horror Drinking Games
Ramsey E-mail - Homepage of the Dead [in "bits
& pieces" section]
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