Devil Times Five

Eschewing the path of nonviolence
★★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1974
Director: 
Sean MacGregor
Starring: 
Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans, Taylor Lacher, Leif Garrett, Carolyn Stellar, Joan McCall
The Setup: 
Gangsters at some resort take in a bunch of kids, who murder them.
Discussion: 

So there I am, home from my painting class and with nothing to watch for a half-hour before going to bed. And again, I reach for 50 Chilling Classics, the most important bargain b-movie set of the 21st century… and once more, 50 Chilling Classics COMES THROUGH.

This one promised murderous kids carving through a bunch of mobsters at a resort, and after pausing to reflect “I like murderous kids!” I threw it in. It began in my favorite way, with a giant WTF??? moment. We see this dewy 70s blonde, Julie, get picked up for a trip by this dude Rick. Then we see a van driving. If you’re not paying close attention to the make and model of these people’s cars, you would naturally assume that the van is Julie and Nick on their trip. The van suddenly goes off the road. It seems for a while like the filmmakers are going to stage the most budget-conscious van crash ever, with sped-up driving footage and a shaky view out the front windshield, when suddenly they really crash a van in the woods and film it in slo-mo tumbling end-over-end down a hill! Seems like Julie and Rick are cold, dead corpses, but no—we suddenly, inexplicably cut back to them, as Julie makes particularly simple-minded expressions as she asks Rick to make nice with her Dad, lead mobster Papa Doc. THEN we suddenly cut to this kid dressed as a nun with huge glasses, blessing the bodies of the people who died in the van crash. This is known as Sister Hannah, and I have watched the entire movie to the end, and I still do not know if she is played by a boy or a girl. There are a few kids, and they steal items off the dead adults. It really seemed like kids playing in the area had found the van, but we later find out that we are to understand the kids were IN the van. And that they are from some school for the mentally disturbed. None of this is clear, and for a while, this is one of those movies where you can never be sure WHAT you’re going to see come the next edit.

Every time you start to relax and get into the story, MORE credits come, right up until 10 MINUTES into the movie! During this time we discover that this movie stars Leif Garrett, who was a teen heartthrob in the late 70s, when he scored with popular hit “I Was Made for Dancin'.”

So this group of individuals is assembled—for no discernable reason—at Lake Arrowhead Village, this rural resort of some kind [the 70s kind]. We hear numerous reports that they are to endure a massive snowstorm that weekend, although it never seems to snow. The assembled are Papa Doc [surely a reference to Haiti???], bearded gangster, Julie and Rick, who we’ve met. Julie is the daughter of Papa Doc and Rick is in his employ. There’s also drunkard Ruth and her husband, bald, schlubby husband Herbert. And then there’s Lovely, sexy, mentally-unbalanced young arm candy of Papa Doc. Also on hand is semi-retarded goon Ralph, around to perform odd jobs and keep the generator running.

So while we’re still getting our bearings here and figuring out who’s who, we find Lovely scantily-clad and feeling sensual in the same room with the rather large and greasy Ralph, who, it must be said, has a somewhat large bulge in his crotch. This does not go lost on Lovely, who comments on how very strong Ralph is, which she asks him to demonstrate by picking her up. He does, and she inquires as to whether he’s ever had a woman. Ralph is uncomfortable and wants to go feed his bunny. Then Julie walks in. Lovely does not exactly hide what she was up to—although Ralph escapes unscathed—and tells Julie “Look, you do your thing, and I’ll do my thing.” She then proceeds to make some value judgements about Julie’s wholesome “thing.” She also lets slip that she has had sex with Rick, Julie’s man, and furthermore, she could have him again any time she wants. Now, at this point Julie has an opportunity to pursue the path of non-violence, meeting Lovely’s provocations with a benevolent attitude of respect and understanding. This is a path she declines, however, and chooses instead to grab Lovely by the hair, shriek “You BITCH!” and drag her to the floor for a minute or two of catfight fun. This is when you’ll be happy you watched this movie. I will confess it was another 30 minutes in before it finally occurred to me that Lovely and Ruth were not actually the same person.

We then get a little shot of Ralph talking to and snuggling with his bunny… in very much the say I was hugging and snuggling MY bunny as I watched this movie. Is this movie essentially implying that I am a simpleton? Yes, I believe that it is.

We then have some footage of the kids walking through the woods, and then some priest I don’t believe we’ve ever seen before walking through the woods, as though pursued by something. He walks into this building, presumably near the resort and then—we enter into FIVE FULL MINUTES of extreme slo-mo as the kids beat [and beat, and beat] the guy, as we hear the avant-garde jazz soundtrack of William Loose. It is the kind of thing that is SO long and SO bizarre you do indeed go back to time precisely how long it really is. FIVE MINUTES of slo-mo of these kids beating this guy. And you know what? I kind of liked it! Of course, I was in a highly impressionable state.

And get this, bitches: the actress who plays Lovely, Carolyn Stellar, is the mother of Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn, also in the film. While we’re at it, I should mention that the film was co-written by the actor who plays Ralph, and that Sorell Booke, who plays Harvey, was most well-known for his role as Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard.

Then—SUDDEN SOFTCORE between Rick and Julie [Julie’s a real bore in the sack], the kids arrive at the house, first spotted by Ruth, who everyone at first assumes is hallucinating. The kids slather on the poor victim act and start to individually latch on to various house members. Soon Randy Rick is being targeted for love by Lovely, and he allows himself to get naked, but then leaves her to shift for herself. Soon Ralph is killed, and the adults are starting to realize that there’s something a little weird about these kids. David, that’s our mini Leif Garrett, goes upstairs and engages in a little bit of drag. Oh, and the phones are dead, the car is sabotaged, and soon the rifles that were hanging on the wall are gone.

SPOILERS > > >
Soon there’s a very funny scene—intentionally funny, too, I think—in which Harvey finally stands up to the tyrannical Papa Doc! Doc has just ordered him to go out and collect wood, and Harvey’s not going to take it anymore! He demands a new job! And more money! And he won’t stand for his wife being insulted! Then he suddenly transitions into “And I’m gonna go chop the wood because I feel like it! Not because you told me to!” …and is soon gone.

Anyway, as if the film suddenly realized that SOMETHING has to happen here, people start getting killed. Harvey gets an axe to the head courtesy of David. Lovely gets drowned in the bath and the kids put piranhas in the tub with her! Please note the repeated shot of the fish appearing to eat right at her punanny. These movies can be so dirty! Papa Doc realizes that the kids are killing people, and goes off to kill them, against the protests of the women, who can’t stand the thought of sweet, innocent children being slaughtered. Julie wakes up and gets a spear in the neck. Ruth gets set on fire. Rick is masterminding a plan to sneak away, but ends up in the ol’ bear trap. Then the kids arrange all the bodies upstairs around a table, like some kind of macabre tea party. The end! Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that, at the beginning, the rather cool title card you see above appeared so suddenly and was so incongruous with the rest of the credits, one might assume that the title had been changed since its original release. One would be right, as the title appears at the end, and it’s “The Beginning.” Other titles were “The House on the Hill” and “People Toys.”
< < < SPOILERS END

I see from other reviews and the IMDb that some people find it boring [the 5-minute slo-mo murder scene being the case in point], not picking up til the last 30 minutes when people get murdered, but I don’t know, I liked it all the way through. The first half has that delightful “WHAT is going on?” feeling that only inept low-budget filmmaking can provide, and I loved all the crazy, trashy characters and all their drama. All these dorky 70s gangsters who hate their boss, the various women and all their jealousy, drinking, catfights and drama—how can you not love that? And killer kids! This is all an intoxicating combination. To tell you where I was at—like I said, I was going to just watch a half hour and go to bed, and I ended up staying up til one in the morning to watch it all! God damn that 50 Chilling Classics… HOW does it do it?

Should you watch it: 

You bet, it’s cheesy awful-but-fun 70s horror that rocks!