Devil Times Five (1974, 1 hr 28 mins)
Wow! This movie can be found under 4 titles: Devil Times Five, Peopletoys, Tantrums, and The Horrible House on the Hill. Seems like a lot of trouble for such a hot 70’s mess!
A bus transporting some mentally suspect kids crashes in the snowy mountains. Five survive and make a difficult trek to a mountain retreat owned by the obnoxious Papa Doc (Gene Evans), a rich medical mogul. He is hosting his daughter, Julie (Joan McCall), her boyfriend Rick (Taylor Lacher), as well as the dysfunctional Harvey and Ruth Beckman (played by Sorrel Booke and Shelly Morrison) for a weekend getaway. It’s a chance for Rick and Harvey to ask Papa Doc for promotions, and a chance for Papa Doc to show off his sexy gal Lovely (Carolyn Stellar) and make everyone uncomfortable.
When the kids arrive at the mountain retreat, they hide out in the garage. They are followed by their doctor who survives the crash and is bent on catching up to them. Unfortunately he does. We find out these kids are not just mentally suspect, they are blood thirsty little sociopaths. The killer kids do away with the good doctor with the longest beat down ever, punctuated with his slow motion “Nooooooooo’s!!!” It made me think of Will Ferrell in Old School when he tranqs himself. The little psychos then infiltrate the house and the adults take pity on them. Of course, one by one, the kids pick them off.
I initially wanted to see this film because it starred a 12-year-old Leif Garrett, and I can’t resist horror from the 70’s. Sadly, halfway through, I wanted it to end. I wished the character of Papa Doc’s housekeeper Ralph (John Durren) has been expanded. He was a mentally challenged patient at one of Papa Doc’s hospitals and taken in after he was orphaned. Ralph felt a connection with one of the kids, the “nun” Hannah. Unfortunately he is offed early on in the movie, and you wonder if these kids also had a connection to one of Papa Doc’s hospitals.
The dynamics between the couples were interesting, but as much as I tried to enjoy the campy triangle between Julie, Rick and Lovely, as well as Ruth’s drunken disinterest in Harvey, it got tiresome.
The murders were pretty twisted. Hangings, bear traps, axe murders and being eaten by piranhas in the bath. Just a day in the life of five little psychopaths. At least they got creative! Leif Garrett was also obviously wearing a horrendous wig in some scenes. According to IMdb (whose source was Screem Magazine vol. 13), some scenes had to be re-shot after a change of directors. Leif had cut his hair and was already shooting another film, hence the thrift store “rug”. Ick! And there is an inexplicable scene where he dresses in drag and says “That’s it. You’re all mine, Harvey Beckman.” So weird. I have to make an honourable mention to Sorrel Booke who plays Harvey. Mr. Booke starred as Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard, which I religiously watched as a wee pixie. If you look up his bio, he was pretty much a genius!
I actually liked the casting of the kids. They were all convincingly creepy. Their ringleader was this little African-American kid Brian (Tierre Turner) who was obnoxious and used his military fantasy to keep the brutal brats in order. Kind of refreshing to see at least one person of colour in a vintage horror, and Tierre Turner has gone on to be a successful stunt coordinator for Hollywood films. Leif Garrett played David, and Moe was played by his real-life sister, Dawn Lyn. This movie was a real family affair as IMdb points out that Carolyn Stellar who plays Lovely, was Leif and Dawn Lyn’s mother. What a sweet, bonding experience! The other two characters, Susan and Sister Hannah, were played by Tia Thompson and Gail Smale. Apparently they never acted again. Scarred for life, perhaps?
My final thought on this film lingers on the inevitable “Did you notice anything strange?” conversation that gets dismissed. Oh yeah, a ragtag group of erratically behaved kids arrive and the phone, car and generator goes out. No, nothing strange there! This just reinforces my pixie rule of thumb: Run from any type of pre-teen! Just run!!
Most Memorable Line: Ruth, in response to Harvey’s romantic overtures, says, “Harvey, I have a headache, a toothache, a backache, and I’m expecting the gout!” Sooo…that’s a no?
Favourite Scene: Has to be the love scene with Rick and Julie, hands down! The dude calls his lady a fox as they make out! Real smooth Rick, real smooth!