Devil Times Five (aka Peopletoys) (1974)
Synopsis of Devil Times Five via IMDb:
Five extremely disturbed, sociopathic children escape from their psychiatric transport and are taken in unwittingly by a group of adult villagers on winter vacation.
It would be reasonable to assume “Death Times Five” might attempt to explain why creepy horror movie children feel the need to murder, maim, and generally be little terrors that keep us “adults” second guessing the true intents of kids everywhere. Unfortunately, it never really does - it doesn’t explain a lot of anything really - but what it does do is deliver a group of five psychologically disturbed children participating in a range of creative homicides that might please fans of this specific sub-genre, depending on their standards of quality.
Like the classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” which was made in the same year, “Devil Times Five” revolves around a group of unsuspecting characters falling prey to a bunch of crazy people out in the sticks. Those crazy people just happen to be a little younger and a little less redneck, but the parallels are definitely apparent. Both films are low budget, genuinely disturbing, and managed to push the limit of their subject matter for their time. Where the comparison ends is that TCM was beautifully shot and tightly edited. This film is the complete opposite.
Reportedly a troubled production, “Devil Times Five” is incompetent in just about every single way. Huge continuity errors abound, and every single shot seems to be framed just a little too low, leaving bizarre dead space above all the actor’s heads. What are we supposed to be focusing on up there? The ceiling? It’s not very interesting. That wall is lovely, but pan down, would you? The cinematographer seems to have been in a drug haze - it was the 70s after all. In fact, the original director (who had to be replaced half-way through production) turned in a final cut that only ran for 38 minutes. He is said to have been placed in a rehab or psychiatric facility shortly after. All hearsay, but the film is definitely the product of a damaged brain.
The cast is strange mix to say the least. Boss Hogg from “The Dukes of Hazzard” makes an appearance, along with Shelley Morrison who went on to star in “Will and Grace”. Future teen heartthrob Leif Garret plays one of the children, his hair giving one of the film’s best performances, metamorphosing wildly from scene to scene as a result of reshoots due to the departure of the film’s director. His real life mother and sister round out the cast. It’s a real family affair.
Fans of 70’s horror will find a few things to enjoy here. Beyond the distinct atmosphere of the era, there’s a bizarre psychedelic murder scene (that goes on for a little too long) where the children take turns beating a man to death. There’s a random catfight that obviously results in exposed breasts. There’s a psychotic albino who dresses like a nun. Also, there’s death by piranha. But even with that, it’s impossible to recommend the film to anyone but enthusiasts. It’s just too sloppy and strange for anyone but the most hardened horror buffs to enjoy.