Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Children of the Living Dead (2001)
"It's just a bunch of ghost stories. Dead men don't walk."- Steve (Justin Krauss)
Stars: Tom Savini, Marty Schiff, Damien Luvara
Other Stars: Jamie McCoy, Heidi Hinzman, Philip Bower, Justin Krauss
Director: Tor A. Ramsey
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and gore, and for language
Run Time: 01h:29m:47s
Release Date: 2001-10-09
DVD ReviewZombies. What's the deal with zombies? How can these shuffling, former corpses cause so much trouble in movies? They travel in gimpy packs, move like molasses, and they are constantly grunting and growling, which seems to work against their required element of surprise. Yet, even with their apparent lack of stealth hunting skills, movie zombies never seem to suffer from a lack of dopey victims to tear apart. And we all know that as long as there is an ample supply of local dullards to dine on, those darn zombies will just never go away.
Maybe it's that lopsided nostalgic streak in me, but George Romero's original legendary Night Of The Living Dead (1968) is really the grand-daddy of all scary zombie flicks. More than just a creepy gross-out, with that shocking downer of an ending, Romero's film ushered in a whole new take on the zombie mythos. As makeup effects improved, the gore became even more graphic by the time Romero's sequels Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Day Of The Dead (1985) were released. Another zombie epic that rose above it's flesh-eating contemporaries was Dan O'Bannon's Return Of The Living Dead (1985), which meshed twisted humor and plenty of spilled brains, as well as that famous graveyard dance by Linnea Quigley.
Not so much a direct sequel to the 1968 Romero film, or even to blood-and-gore effects king Tom Savini's 1990 remake, for that matter; this one is a more self-contained zombie tale set at the same locale. The story opens without much exposition, simply a series of staggering zombies being picked off one by one in a cornfield by armed townsfolk. The hunt is led by rugged former deputy Hughes (Savini), who has become a gun-toting survivalist, and he stages a daring rescue of some trapped school kids who are hiding out in a barn after their bus is attacked by roving ghouls. In a weird bit of dialogue, the former deputy touts that "zombies don't like kids." What the?? Oh well, never mind that, because soon Hughes has a fatal showdown with the zombie incarnation of evil Abbott Hayes, a vicious serial killer who died years earlier in prison.
The story then jumps ahead 14 years, to the same dinky burg, and the problem of disappearing dead bodies is confusing the local law force. Rumors that creepy Abbott Hayes is stealing bodies is treated as just another crazy ghost story, but we, the viewer, know it's true because the cadaverous ghoul knocks off a van full of teens before the plot jumps forward AGAIN, this time only one year.
At this point, Children Of The Living Dead becomes a watered-down rehash of Poltergeist, with a subplot concerning a shady car dealer moving the headstones, and not the graves, on the lot of his new dealership. Ironically, said dealership is right next the "old Abbott Hayes property", and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure that bloodshed and mayhem quickly ensues. Hayes gathers an army of fresh flesh-eaters, and it soon becomes the living versus the living dead.
Maybe I'm getting jaded as I get older, but these new breed of zombie flicks just don't do it for me. Designed basically as a vehicle to display spewing blood and gnawed flesh, the whole concept gets tiresome rather quickly. Tension and suspense are minimal here, if not non-existent. The acting is stiffer than a room full of, hell I don't know, a room full of really stiff things. Plus, the idea of a zombie king like Abbott Hayes could have cool if he did more than wander around, cackle and stick his big red tongue out like he was licking an imaginary ice cream cone.
Despite the appearance of Tom Savini in the opening segment, the makeup effects for Children Of The Living Dead were created by Vincent Guastini. This guy has an impressive background, having worked on Last Of The Mohicans, Dogma and Requiem For A Dream, and while he dishes out a acres of chewed latex flesh and pounds of gnawed organs here, it's wasted in a really bad film. The screenplay by Karen Wolf is just an extended series of unlikely and predicable zombie attacks, and never merits much real interest. Director Tor A. Ramsey (now THAT'S a cool name) does his best to set a spooky mood, and in his own way manages to recreate some of the visual stylings of Romero's spartan original, but for the most part he is ultimately ends up simply framing yet another lifeless zombie attack.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1.77:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Artisan has issued this zombie-fest in a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While the print is clean and blemish free, the compression issues and edge enhancement are too significant to not merit a mention. Overall color field is well-saturated, though a bit soft during some of the interior shots. Decent black levels give strong definition to the darker, night sequences.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: I'm getting more disappointed these days when DVD's feature 5.1 and 2.0 tracks that end up being virtually interchangeable, especially on newer films. What's the point, you may ask? If I knew, I'd tell you, but I don't like to be teased with 5.1 and not get a full surround experience. This is another example of a potentially superior audio track literally mirroring it's less robust brother. Rear channels are used sparingly by both, with the only real difference between the two being a little more on the bottom end of the 5.1 track.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Deep In The Woods, Wishmaster 3, Premonition, Bloody Mirror, Ginger Snaps, If I Die Before I Wake
- Photo Gallery
A photo gallery of 16 zombie stills, 16 chapter stops, and subtitles in English and Spanish wrap up the lackluster extras for this disc.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsThere's a lot of zombies killing a lot of innocent people here, and it's still a dull ride. I had high hopes for this disc, but it just never came together like I had anticipated. I'm just going to sit back and wait for my fully loaded collector's edition of Return Of The Living Dead...
Rich Rosell 2001-12-21