2 and a half stars
directed by: Sean MacGregor / David Sheldon
starring: Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans, Taylor Lacher, Joan McCall, Shelley Morrison, Carolyn Stellar, John Durren, Leif Garrett, Gail Smale, Dawn Lyn, Tierre Turner, Tia Thompson, Henry Beckman
choice dialogue:

"We'll just give her a bottle of scotch with a nipple on it."

- can't remember which character this refers to, but sounds like a typical Friday night for me.

slash with panache?

[review by Justin Kerswell]

From the deliciously sick, sick 70s comes this demented tale of killer kiddies in a grindhouse make-over of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) and THE BAD SEED (1956). It's equal parts sleaze and cheese. Well, what you expect from producers with the last names Wank and Blowitz?!

Five children escape from a mini-van crash, as the vehicle shoots off the road – action that's hilariously speeded up – before tumbling over and over down a snowy hillside. Miraculously the children are completely unharmed – unlike the driver and an unlucky nun who left bloody in the front seat. An odd looking bunch – including one dressed as an army recruit and another as a nun – they head off across the snow; ostensibly to find help. However, the children aren't as cherubic as they look. In fact, they were being transferred to a children's acute ward at the asylum and are seriously disturbed and on the look out for adults to 'play' with.

A boorish old man, Papa Doc (Gene Evans) – who somewhat ironically owns a series of sanatoriums – is holidaying at his snow lodge with his sexy trollop of a wife, Lovely (Carolyn Stellar). Unwilling guests include Papa Doc's daughter, Julie (Joan McCall) and her new husband, Rick (Taylor Lacher). As well as the timid Harvey (Sorrell Booke – who went on to play Boss Hog in TV's THE DUKES OF HAZZARD in the late 1970s to mid-80s) and his drunken bride, Ruth (Shelley Morrison – who eagle-eyed viewers will recognise as Karen's heroically grumpy Hispanic maid Rosario in the sit-com WILL AND GRACE). We see she's a drunk because she chugs J&B whiskey like she's in a giallo (those pesky J&B product placement people got everywhere in the 70s!). There's also the handyman with learning difficulties called Ralph (John Durren), who Lovely cruelly tries to seduce as a joke. As you might expect, before the kids turn up at the house (the film doesn't really throw any curveballs at this point), there's much frottage and a lively cat fight between Lovely and Julie on the shagpile as the musak chugs seductively away in the background.

Chasing the children – like a pre-cursor to Dr Loomis in HALLOWEEN (1978) – is the only other survivor from the bus crash, an attendant from the mental hospital who regains consciousness and takes after diminutive nutters. His only thanks – after huffing and puffing up the hill after them – is to be killed by the children, who arm themselves with hammers, a sledgehammer and a pitchfork to do him in. This initial violence is lovingly filmed in slo-mo sepia, which might look like pretensions to grandeur – and is initially eerily effective. However, supposedly the initial cut of the film only ran forty minutes long, so it's clearly an attempt to pad out the running time – and it goes on so long that you could make a cup of tea, do some ironing and have a short nap safe in the knowledge that children will still be doing unmentionable things to an adult very, very slowly.

What seems like several years later, the kids make it into the house and are greeted by the bemused adults who seem rather blasé about the fact that they have survived an horrific traffic accident. They treat them like a minor annoyance, but give them the run of the hose – which is obviously a big mistake. Even when the kid dressed as a nun (Gail Smale) tells the considerably balding Rick, “I noticed your hair – it's very healthy!”, they don't really get an inkling that the brats clearly have a screw loose. In fact, the adults are so self-obsessed it isn't until over half of them are dead that they realise that their little house guests are deadly.

DEVIL TIMES FIVE is a bit of a mess, but it's actually a miracle that it's as cohesive as it is considering that the original director was fired – reputedly ending up in the asylum himself – before much of the film was reshot at a different location. The film's greatest strength are the dementedly impassive children, who, whilst they don't generate fear, are unnervingly childlike in their determination and pursuit of the witless adults. It is their almost bored indifference to the mayhem they concoct, and the general nihilism of the piece (preempting Punk by several years), that sets it apart. This is jarringly at odds with the jaunty 70s naughtiness and the gimmicky nature of some of the killings – especially the one naked character who is nibbled to death after piranhas are poured into her bath tub.

Perhaps the most famous cast member is future 70s teen idol to be, Leif Garrett. He is curiously effective as the bratty, cross-dressing David. And his real-life sister (Dawn Lyn) plays an introspective pyromaniac – and keeping it in the family, Lovely is played by their real-life mother Carolyn Stellar.

The film is clearly an inspiration for that bastard child of the Golden Age early 80s slashers, BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1980) – which shared the sociopathic kids aspect. It might have also inspired the superior Spanish film WHO COULD KILL A CHILD? (1976), where a mysterious malaise turns the children on an island against adults. However, whilst DEVIL TIMES FIVE obviously takes its cue from killer kids flicks such as VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, this is the first time that this sub-subgenre took on proto-slasher trappings: from using household implements to kill the adults to placing the bodies in a grim approximation of a celebration that was utilised by later classic slashers including HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981).


BODYCOUNT 10  bodycount!   female:4 / male:6

       1) Male killed in van crash
       2) Female killed in van crash
       3) Male clubbed to death
       4) Male hung
       5) Male hacked with axe
       6) Female nibbled by piranhas
       7) Male impaled
       8) Female burnt to death
       9) Female speared in the neck
     10) Male has throat cut