Killer kid horrors often go one of two ways. One, they are annoying, lame, and so uneventful, that you wish for your money and time back. Two, they are disturbing, well shot, and full of charisma, that you wonder why you hadn’t picked them up sooner. I’m happy to say, Devil Times Five is closer to the latter. It’s a one-by-one feature featuring some familiar faces, such as Grizzly’s Joan McCall, teen idol Leif Garrett, television’s Will & Grace star Shelly “Rosario” Morrison, Dukes of Hazzard’s Sorrell Booke, and tough guy, Gene Evans. Unlike the undead kids of The Children, this feature involves simple, runaway young humans. Except they’re not normal; they’re downright crazy!
After a bus crashes into the woods, young Moe (Dawn Lyn), Brian (Tierre Turner), Susan (Tia Thompson), David (Garrett), and Sister Hannah (Gail Smale) walk through the snow-covered mountaintop, searching for a place to stay at. Meanwhile, business man Papa Doc (Evans) and his friends Harvey (Booke), Ruth (Morrison), Lovely (Carolyn Steller), Ralph (John Durren), Rick (Taylor Lacher), and daughter Julie (McCall), are staying up at a big winter house. The snow is packed for the time being, and the group is just trying to relax. It’s a vacation after all. Back at the bus, driver Dr. Brown (Henry Beckman) wakes up. Frantic, he goes looking for the kids, worried they have gone off too far away. They belong to a mental hospital, and are considered unstable!
Following footprints to the big winter house, Brown opens the door to the basement. But the five children are waiting for him, and with chains, pitchforks, and sledgehammers, they beat him to death. The next morning, Ruth walks up to the attic, only to find the young people staring back. The entire house decides to take the group in, and comfort them with food. Julie and Rick, however, are suspicious. Sister Hannah seems a bit young to be a nun, Susan is obsessed with fire, and they don’t seem to be very sad about being stranded. Soon, mysterious accidents start up, the first of them leaving Ralph hung by his neck in the shed. With the phone lines cut, the power flickering, and the adult population dwindling, there may only be a few left to fend against the evil that is, the Devil Times Five.
Truly 70s, and full of life, this entry in the kiddie-horror sub-genre is quite a fun ride. Lovely is a nasty piece of beautiful work, who tries to seduce mentally slow men and even Julie’s partner, Rick. A funny highlight is the catfight between McCall and Steller, which is so silly and non-believable, you can’t help but love it. The music is plinky, sort of happy, and not very horrific. As for the killers, well, they’re kids. The scare factor can only go up so high. They’re mean and cruel, but humorous and sensitive as well. Cross-dressing Leif Garrett makes for an impatient little boy who does accept failure as an option, becoming furious over losing a game of chess, and blaming the people who he is trying to kill for ruining his face.
I love the variety. Kills are not simply tools such as a knife and axe (though they do make an appearance). Fire, piranhas, and an inventive combination of a spike and a swing show us just how to be a creative bunch of little maniacs. The winter setting is a big plus for the film, adding isolation as well as an adoring scenery to the adventure through exploitation. The writing is witty, and Gene Evans’ rough personality makes characterization a plus. “Haven’t you ever played soldier when you were a boy?” asks Rick. “No, I didn’t have time.” he replies. “Bullshit, you’re still playing” Rick laughs, making a joke at Gene’s character. Some of these minor funnies are spread throughout, but luckily, the movie still keeps itself in a serious environment.
Alternatively titled The Horrible House on the Hill and People Toys, there is still a lot to be desired. It is also a contender for a film with the longest death scene ever. For over four minutes, and in slow motion, the bus driver is being pummelled by each young monster, shouting in a long, deep voice. It’s quite nerve wracking actually. The first forty minutes or so take forever to get through, but after that, it runs quite smoothly. Blood squirts, but never in large amounts, keeping a realistic portrait. The 70s style and colorful rooms among the house is a great addition to the atmosphere, and with so much joyful people, you sometimes forget that the adults aren’t twenty five, but more so in their forties. Aside from Doc and Booke of course, whose older appearances cannot be hidden. Special effects include a car driving at great speed, out of control, with the magic that is fast motion.
By not taking itself too seriously, or too loosely, it helps in its mission to be a decent and entertaining walkthrough. The slow motion scenes can be irritating, and it really does feel like a long flick for something that’s supposed to be just under ninety minutes. Ralph could be a likeable character to some, but it’s still a relief to no longer hear his voice after his passing. The wonderful Code Red DVD, who released the terrible but fun Don’t Go in the Woods, and the messy but hilarious Doom Asylum, once again clean up a lost treasure from the good old days, with supplements galore. In widescreen, Devil Times Five is presented with a cast and co-director audio commentary, cast and producer interviews, its original trailer, an alternative title sequence, and a few pictures in the poster gallery. It’s no masterpiece, and it suffers a lot from awkward moments, but if you get past the few scenes stuck in slow motion Hell, you’ll be smiling with the crazed mini devils in no time. High five! You’ve found a worthy show. Buy it!