Produced under the title People Toys and (somewhat) released under the name The Horrible House on the Hill, Sean McGregor's Devil Times Five is one bizarre little mess of a movie. Clearly cobbled together from two distinctly different shoots, this one was a troubled production from the word "go," and the flick still wears its myriad flaws on its clearly well-worn sleeve ... but that's not to say there's no fun to be found here.
Borrowing more than a few pages from Village of the Damned, Devil Times Five is about a creepy quintet of ultra-pscyho kids who (somehow) escape from a horrific car accident, only to stumble upon a mountainside retreat in which three married couples (and a mildly retarded handyman) are spending a bicker-filled weekend of wheeling, dealing and alcohol consumption.
The grown-ups take the five freaks in from the cold, and before too long they're being slayed, skewered and barbecued while the malicious little moppets cheer wildly from the bleachers. It's actually a pretty nasty little horror flick, even if Devil Times Five is considerably more weird and violent than it is actively scary.
And the cast is surely something to see, provided you remember of the names I'm about to mention. We got Lief Garrett as one of the psycho-kids, soap opera star Joan McCall as the only "nice" grown-up, TV staple Gene Evans as a mean-spirited jerkface, and Sorrell "Boss Hogg" Booke as one of the cluelessly ill-fated husbands.
Putting aside the exposition-heavy opening (with the help of your FF button, if need be), the flick manages to pick up some solid steam as it chugs along, and there's a mildly creepy vibe to the way the youngsters go about their bloody way with equal parts enthusiasm, innocence and odd malevolence. (The kids are entirely "insane," don't forget.) On the technical side, the movie is frequently a mess: Continuity errors abound, a few of the performances are pretty ripe, and much of the dialogue sounds like an episode of As the World Turns, circa 1968. But for all its obvious shortcomings, there's a good quarter of the flick that should absolutely appeal to the old-school horror buffs.
I mean, when's the last time you saw a horror victim get dispatched by way of piranha in the bathtub?
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is pretty darn impressive, all things considered, if not exactly flawless. I'm sure you understand.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, and it's a little on the soft side. But hey, that's why we have volume buttons.
Code Red does a fine job with this fairly obscure piece of genre fare: There's a surprisingly frank and honest audio commentary with producer Michael Blowitz, co-director David Sheldon, actors Joan McCall & Dawn Lyn and moderator Darren Gross that dishes a whole lot of dirt on the production. Gross does a fine job of keeping the info flowing with his intermittent questions.
Also included is a 22-minute block of interviews with producer Michael Blowitz, co-director David Sheldon, and actors Tierre Turner, Joan McCall, and Dawn Lyn. Again the material is entirely matter-of-fact regarding the movie's strengths and weaknesses. None of the involved parties seem to believe they made a classic, but they tried pretty hard and can still conjure up enough war stories to talk about. Good enough for me.
Rounding out the disc are a poster gallery, a very brief alternate main title sequence, the original trailer, and some previews for other Code Red releases like Don't Go in the Woods, Love Me Deadly, School Girls in Chains, Sweet Sixteen, Beyond the Door, and The Secrets of Sweet Sixteen.
Cheap, chintzy and often kinda kooky, but there's just enough mild chills and kitsch value to keep the intended audience entertained. It's got an odd cast, a wildly schizophrenic personality, and five freaky kids who just love to kill people. All in all, a fairly fun way to spend 90 random minutes.