I’ve been obsessed for years with the trailer and artwork for this movie. Throw in the fact that it has 70’s teen idol Leif Garrett amongst its cast of pint-sized psychopaths and it seems like a recipe for my kind of movie insanity. However, I just never found the time to sit down and watch it. With so many movies on our shelves and streaming online, my to watch list is constantly bulging with films all screaming to be enjoyed. Thanks to Chilling Classics Month, I finally got the chance to spend some time with this film and it lives up to what I hoped it would be.
Five children have survived a van accident on a snowy road and unbeknownst to everyone they encounter for the rest of the film, they were on their way to a mental institution for criminally insane young folks. They make their way to the secluded mountain home of Papa Doc, a rich businessman, who has all manner of guests staying with him, like his sex-starved wife Lovely (Carolyn Stellar, who beyond being Leif Garrett and Dawn Lynn’s mother, would go on to design the costumes for the 1978’s utterly brutal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band), his daughter and her boyfriend, plus Dr. Harvey Beckman (Sorrell Booke, Boss Hogg from TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard) and his wife, Ruth (Shelley Morrison, Rosario from TV’s Will and Grace). Oh yeah, there’s also the dim witted handyman, Ralph (original screenwriter John Durren).
Soon, the power is out, the phones are cut and the kids are killing people left and right. Little actor and budding crossdresser David (Garrett), army lover Brian, Susan the pyro, Moe (Dawn Lynn, who played Dawna in the Walking Tall films) with her plush fish and usage of piranha and last but not least, albino nun Sister Hannah will find their way into your heart, then cut it out and show it to you. Imagine The Bad Seed times five, with none of the great story or acting.
This movie is also known as Peopletoys, Tantrums and The Horrible House on the Hill. Of course, that last title has a Last House on the Left ripoff poster to go along with the similar title.
Devil Times Five was distributed by Jerry Gross’ Cinemation Industries, which also brought Son of Dracula, Teenage Mother (“She’s nine months of trouble!”), The Black Six and Idaho Transfer to audiences that had to be absolutely bewildered by their level of pure strangeness.
Original director Sean MacGregor was fired from the production after his footage was unusable and David Sheldon finished the film (you can tell that they switched interior locations because there’s no continuity in the backgrounds). By the time those reshoots happened, Leif Garrett had cut his hair, so he wears a wig that you can easily point out several times.
Even stranger, MacGregor was in a psychiatric ward after leaving this movie and also was dating Gail Smale, who played Sister Hannah. That last bit doesn’t seem all that interesting, until you realize that she was underage and that she was given a nun costume and rose-colored glasses to hide the fact that she was so young and a legitimate albino.
Seriously — how crazy is a movie where Leif Garrett watches as his real-life mom is nude and being murdered by carnivorous fish in the bathtub? This had to be a strange thing for people to watch, as Garrett was already well-known as Oscar’s son on TV’s Odd Couple and his sister was on My Three Sons.
If you’re looking for a movie where children annihilate adults that isn’t The Chlldren, Village of the Damned or Who Can Kill a Child?, then I guess you should watch Devil Times Five. Actually, I kid. This is a goofy little film that is pretty much the horror version of Home Alone. I enjoyed it, but you know, I also have no taste whatsoever.