Month of Horror Prevues: DEVIL TIMES FIVE
“My face! Look what you did to my beautiful face!”
Over the years there’s been several films made in the killer kids subgenre like Village of the Damned, The Other, Bloody Birthday and The Children and one of my favorites is Devil Times Five. The movie actually went by several titles upon release into grindhouses and drive-ins like Tantrums (UK), Horrible House on the Hill and Peopletoys. I first saw it on DVD when it was re-released a few years ago and since then I revisit it once a year or so. The story begins when a group of children from a mental hospital are being transported to another location. Their short bus soon plunges down a deep revine but the kids manage to survive and make their way to safety by walking through the snowcovered forest. Meanwhile a group of adults are planning to spend a weekend at a lodge up in the mountains nearby. You’ll see classic actor Gene Evans as “Papa Doc” (aka the surly old guy) and the great Sorrell Booke who many of us who grew up in the 80s will know best as Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazard. What begins as a nice getaway with plenty of drinks, sex and partying soon goes sour when the freakazoid kids show up on the lodge doorstep. One interesting thing about these brats is their oddball personalities. You’ve got Brian the young black militant, Sister Hanna, a bespectled nerdy wannabe nun, David, a crossdressing snob played by a young Leif Garrett and two other girls Moe and Susan that are just plain off their rockers. It all adds up to one insanely entertaining concoction as they begin attacking Papa Doc and friends in various horrific ways such as hangings, gang beatings, piranhas in tubs and the ubiquitous burning someone alive. An interesting bit of trivia that many might not know is that Leif and co-star Dawn Lyn’s (Moe) mom is Carolyn Stellar who plays Lovely in the film. For fans of catfights there’s a classic hairyanker between Lovely and another blonde gal.
This movie could’ve easily been made in the summertime and that would’ve been fine, but I think having it set against a cold, snowy backdrop just adds to that bleak, cabin fever aspect. We’ve seen this idea used before in The Thing From Another World (and the remake) and later on in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The whole confined claustrophobic feeling always works especially well within the horror genre. There’s one sequence that really stands out for me and it sort of comes out of nowhere. The kids are all going to attack one of their victims and instead of the usual standard regular motion, the film slows down but also changes to a sepia tone. I thought this switch to extending the horror made it much more interesting. One other detail that I’ve got to mention is composer William Loose’s score which is made up of these electronic childlike melodies which when contrasted with the horrific actions onscreen makes it really creepy and more entertaining. I don’t know where Devil Times Five ranks on most horror geeks lists, but I consider it a low budget gem.
– Unknown actress Gail Smale (Sister Hannah) was alleged to be original director Sean MacGregor’s under-aged girlfriend at the time of production, and her character’s Nun’s Habit costume with rose colored glasses was partly an attempt to conceal her natural albinism. This film remains her only known screen credit.
– Leif Garrett had started working on the southern drama Macon County Line and had his hair cropped really short so he wears a wig through most of the movie, which when combined with David’s crossdressing habits actually just makes it more disturbing.
– Sean MacGregor, the credited director was fired from of the film and is said to have spent time in a psychiatric hospital afterwards. The production was picked up by David Sheldon who had to reshoot most of the movie.