Children of the Living Dead (2001)

Children of the Living Dead (2001)

Thirty years later and they’re walking again …

In 1987, the body of serial killer and rapist Abbot Hayes disappeared from the morgue. Shortly afterwards, a zombie plague swept his home town and many people died during the carnage. Fourteen years later, a businessman arrives at the town with plans to build a car dealership on the site of the cemetery and relocates the bodies into a mass grave.


In no way connected to George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead (despite claims otherwise on the DVD cover), Children of the Living Dead is one of the shoddiest zombie films I’ve ever seen. Producer John Russo co-wrote the classic 60s shocker with Romero but it’s obvious to see who had more input in the final draft as there is not the faintest hint of any redeeming quality to Children of the Living Dead. Russo also brought to life the infinitely better Return of the Living Dead back in the 80s which also attempted to link itself with the original zombie masterpiece. Why, Mr Russo? Can’t you just make your own timeline and your own chronology?

This film reeks of cheap cash-in and Russo, along with Bill Hinzman (who played the famous Cemetery Zombie in Romero’s classic), should hang their heads in shame at trying to weasel their way into series canon. The films have to be able to stand on their own in comparison and whilst Return of the Living Dead managed that, Children of the Living Dead is a total waste of time. By trying to force its way in, it opens itself up for criticism. Well actually it does a bad enough job on its own to warrant the criticism without having it compared to other films.

The first and most overwhelming problem is that of plot and structure. The constant shifts in time with the plot are really confusing and pointless. The film conveniently begins in the year that Night of the Living Dead was made, 1968, and has the townsfolk fighting off the zombie outbreak. Whether it’s the same outbreak or not matters little because after a while, the film then shifts forward fourteen years. Now we’re introduced to another batch of characters that run afoul of Abbott Hayes and his zombie hordes. Then fast forward another year to another new batch of characters who are introduced. After two false starts, finally Children of the Living Dead settles on a group of characters to build its narrative up around but you won’t care by now as you’ve already been cheated twice. Thirty minutes in, and we’ve finally met our main characters. They’re not worth the wait!

The only good thing that the film had going for it was the sight of legendary make-up effects man Tom Savini in an acting role. As well as being famous for his splatter effects, Savini has appeared in numerous films including a memorable turn in From Dusk Till Dawn. Here, Savini plays a bad ass cop turned zombie hunter but don’t expect him to be around for long as he’s one of the characters in the first false start. He obviously owed someone a favour – what’s worse is that he doesn’t even get to do any of his classic make-up effects on the zombies. As soon as Savini bites the dust, no other actor even comes close to making their presence felt on the screen.

There’s also the question of the super-zombie, Abbott Hayes, who seems indestructible and has some magical powers to turn other people into zombies without biting. The idea is somewhat intriguing (although having one zombie controlling the others kind of diminishes the ‘act on hunger instinct’ mantra that they’ve always had) but the execution is poor and Hayes spends most of the film glowering from the trees and snarling in bushes in the background.


Children of the Living Dead is a total dud and quite possibly the worst zombie film ever made, there are only so many words that I could use to describe how awful it is. Russo should leave well alone of the desperate attempts to rekindle the success of Night of the Living Dead and let Romero do his own thing with that chronology and timeline instead of chipping in his own two cents – and yes, I haven’t forgotten about Russo’s ill-fated ‘Special’ edition of Night of the Living Dead either, another failed attempt to cash-in.





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