Alan (co-writer Alan Ormsby, DEATHDREAM) is an insurance salesman who dreams of making a horror film. He hires a bunch of budding actors and takes them by boat one night to an island, as preparation for filming.

He tells them the island is home to an old graveyard reserved specifically for criminals. When they reach the island, Alan marches his troupe - joker Jeff (Jeff Gillen, who later co-directed the superb DERANGED with Ormsby), hunky yet cowardly Paul (Paul Cronin), brittle Anya (Anya Ormsby), vampish Val (Valerie Mamches) and demure Terry (Jane Daly) through the misty graveyard, and towards a cottage where he tells them they must stay the night.

Furthermore, Alan announces plans to dig up a corpse for fun during the night. The group are understandably perturbed by Alan's intentions (and sick, bullying sense of humour) and try to leave. But Alan reminds them all that they have signed a contract to work with him - and if they leave the island without him, they are out of work. Struggling actors being desperate as they are, the group reluctantly stay and entertain Alan's craziness.

Later in the evening, Alan produces a grimoire - an old book of spells - which he claims contains a spell to resurrect the dead. All they need to do is dig up a fresh corpse, and recite the spell in the graveyard after midnight.

Again reluctantly, the actors indulge Alan's pottiness a little further and follow him to the graveyard. Jeff is asked to dig up a grave and pull its corpse from its coffin. At this point we meet campy actors Emerson (Robert Philip) and Roy (Roy Engleman, who Alan carefully placed in the cemetery earlier as part of a prank on his companions.

But the relief that the whole evening was just an elaborate gag doesn't last for long. For Alan explains to the group that he actually DOES want to recite the spell, using the corpse of a recently buried man called Orville, in the hope of raising the dead.

The group gather uncomfortably in the graveyard as Alan attempts to invoke Satan. The spell apparently fails, much to the group's amusement and Alan's fury, but the night is still not over. Not to be ridiculed, Alan announces they are all to return to the cottage for a party in honour of Orville's "coming out".

But as the group retire to their party, the graveyard soil begins to stir ...

CHILDREN marked the feature debut of the talented Bob Clark (MURDER BY DECREE; PORKYS; BLACK CHRISTMAS). It's an odd little film, with many positive and negative points.

On the plus side, the film is often interesting visually. Clark makes good use of his simple location, and the sparse use of coloured lighting adds a stylish edge to proceedings. The graveyard scenes are brilliantly shot and designed, with lots of atmospheric smoke to speak of. The stand-out moment in the entire film is undoubtedly when the dead rise from the earth - it's among the best evocations of this image that the genre has seen.

The acting is extremely spirited with Ormsby shining in an energetic, amusingly malevolent performance. Gillen lends comedy to an already witty script (co-penned by Clark and Ormsby) while everyone else gets enough dialogue to flesh out their characters and have their moment of fame.

The music, too, is inspired. When the dead rise the score creates an almighty commotion that successfully adds to the mounting sense of hysteria. It's akin to the clattery chaos of SUSPIRIA's terror scenes, and yet predates the Goblin's "pioneering" score by a good 4 years.

Then there are the negative points.

For one, the film is billed as a comedy horror. And yet, it seems far too occupied with it's (albeit well-written) gags rather than upping the terror ante. Clark and Ormsby clearly enjoyed writing the numerous lines of barbed dialogue and insults, and Jeff's whining comedy act, but seem less interested when it came to working on the horror aspects.

Then there's the pacing. This is the film's major flaw. For an 86-minute film, it seems criminal that it's 63 minutes before the dead even rise! Sure, the film starts off quickly and we're introduced to our likeable characters (even Alan is one of those screen bastards that you enjoy hating) without ado, but - as enjoyable as the dialogue is - nothing much happens for an hour. And when we know there's zombies to come, this is an awful long time to keep people waiting!

The end result is that when the dead rise and the living finally start getting killed, it's all pretty much an afterthought as Clark rushes to wrap things up.

Very flawed but undeniably interesting, CHILDREN is an odd film that deserves to be seen at least once. You may find yourself fast-forwarding through a lot of the second act, or wishing you could find a copy of Anchor Bay UK's much maligned DVD (that was inexplicably missing some 10-or-so minutes of footage), but either way there's enough atmosphere and some cool ghouls later on - great cheap FX work from Ormsby - to recommend a viewing.

VCI's 35th Anniversary Edition presents the film uncut in it's original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced, and looks very nice indeed. Although some grain is evident and the film wobbles occasionally, this is the best it's looked with strong vivid colours, decent blacks and nice sharp images. A vast improvement on the murky transfers previously seen on DVD.

The English mono audio does its job well, offering a loud and clear mix with little background interference.

Animated menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with an insightful commentary track from Alan and Anya Ormsby and Daly, moderated by Severin man David Gregory. It's a good track, with all three on form, chuckling at once-forgotten memories. Gregory does a good job of reigning them in now and then with pertinent questions.

Next is a 10-minute featurette entitled "Memories of Bob Clark", which is basically a series of stills of Clark accompanied by audio memories from Ormsby, Ormsby and Daly. Amazingly, although prompted by Gregory to discuss his memories of working with Clark, Ormsby manages to turn the conversation so that it's all about him ...

"Grindhouse Q&A" is 11 minutes of footage from an LA screening in May 2007, which sees cast and crew members taking questions from a cinema audience. It's good stuff.

"Confessions of a Grave Digger" is a 9-minute interview with Ken Goch.

Then we have two bizarre additions to the disc. Two music promo videos for a band called The Deadthings. Apart from their name, I can see no reason for these videos to be included here. What's more, they're appalling - unless you too are stuck in a timewarp and still listen to the likes of Ratt and LA Guns.

But wait, it gets weirder with FREAK 13's 2-minute "tribute" to CHILDREN - effectively a series of stills from the film, accompanied by some song this fan's made up presumably in their bedroom.

Extras are rounded off by a decent photo gallery of 17 images, the original theatrical trailer, an Ormsby biography and 8 notes of CHILDREN-related trivia.

The disc also includes trailers for THE STITCHER, DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT and DON'T OPEN THE DOOR.

If you like your Easter Eggs, there's a very brief (bizarre) one to be found on the main menu page.

CHILDREN is far from being a great zombie film, but is still worth a look. If you are interested in buying it on DVD, this is the release to go for.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by VCI
Region All - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review