Devil Times Five
DEVIL TIMES FIVE
WRITER: Screenplay by John Durren
Story by Dylan Jones
DIRECTOR: Sean MacGregor
STARRING: Sorrell Booke as Harvey Beckman
Gene Evans as Papa Doc
Taylor Lacher as Rick
Shelley Morrison as Ruth
Carolyn Steller as Lovely
Joan McCall as Julie
Leif Garrett as David
Dawn Lyn as Moe
Tierre Turner as Brian
Tia Thompson as Susan
Gail Smale as Sister Hannah
John Durren as Ralph
QUICK CUT: After a bus tumbles down a mountain road, five plucky little kids wade through the cold and the snow until they find a home being occupied by some adults on a working vacation. Oh, and the kids are a bit murderous.
Papa Doc - The brains of the business, and a real hard-ass. As the boyfriend of his daughter points out, he never really stopped playing soldier as a kid. He doesn't approve of anyone, doesn't like surprises, and just wants his company to be the best it can be.
Lovely - Papa Doc's new young bride, who has a bit of a wandering eye, a wandering hand...heck, she'll sleep with almost anyone.
Harvey & Ruth - An employee of Doc's and his wife, invited away for the weekend to Doc's place in the mountains. Harvey's a bit of a sad sack, with his wife constantly pestering him to grow a backbone and get the job and life he deserves.
Julie & Rick - Julie is Doc's daughter, and along with Lovely, have both slept with Rick. Julie likes to not rock the boat with her dad, but also won't just sit back, as she married some guy he doesn't approve of. Rick's actually a very honourable sort, and avoids Lovely's advances during the movie quite admirably. Rick's also our hero of the piece, and does the best job of anyone in fighting...
The Kids - A group of five kids that escape their transport to a psychiatric facility elsewhere. We have Brian, the little soldier who is always in character of a fighting man. Susan who is our resident pyro and someone who gets close to Ruth. Hannah, a young girl pretending to be a nun and the kids' escort. Moe, an odd little girl who doesn't really do much but obsessively cuddle her stuffed fish and want affection. And finally David, who is a bit too needy for affection, and takes an unhealthy liking to Harvey.
It's Trisk's fifth anniversary, so *naturally* I am reviewing...Devil Times Five! One for each year I've been around like a bad fungus!
And I say naturally like anyone's ever heard of this movie. Honestly, I chose it because it had 'five' in the title, no other reason. Well, and it sounded fun. I'm easy to please.
Anywho, this movie starts off charmingly enough with a group of kids being bussed into the woods where nothing can possibly...oop, they're swerving off the road already.
Swerving off the road in the most hilarious fashion possible as they speed up the film to make the bus seem more out of control on the road, and then the sound guys add in every sound plus the kitchen sink as it tumbles down the hill and through the trees.
Meanwhile, Rick and Julie are also driving around to go meet some friends and associates. Hopefully they have a better time of things, or at least don't run into a Snowbeast.
Back with the bus, four kids and Sister Hannah manage to crawl from the wreckage, but everyone else is dead, leaving them to fend for themselves.
And then we're back with movie B, where Rick and Julie arrive at their working weekend, and we meet the boss, Papa Doc. Sounds like he'd be an escapee from a voodoo movie, but nope! He's your typical worked hard to get where he is business type. He provides a bit of comedic relief, and while I can smell hardass and a jerk...I kinda like the guy, too.
Surprisingly, we actually see someone else climb out of the bus long after the kids and Hannah have trundled off and the rest of the movie is settling down in a warm house somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It's almost an adult take on a cabin in the woods!
At this home, there's a big, strong bloke by the name of Ralph, who's none too bright, and pretty much straight out of the "Of Mice and Men" playbook. Surprisingly, he doesn't end up as a red herring at some point, or blamed for the murders by the kids. And SOMEhow, Ralph is being seduced by the lady of the house. How does a guy like this get a woman so easily, when I have so much trouble?
OH. HE WROTE THE MOVIE. That's how.
At least the seduction scene of Lovely trying to get him to strip may be the single longest, most awkward thing I've ever seen.
The plot needlessly diverts into a catfight between Lovely and Julie fighting over Rick, but the movie takes the opportunity to sneak in some breasts. It's all very "Dallas"...years before Dallas was a thing!
Ralph goes off to play with his bunnies...I shit you not, he *is* Lennie - while the kids close in on the house. Only 25 minutes in? Not bad, not bad. Most movies of this era would've waited until at LEAST 45 minutes in. Heck, some from THIS era. Even the dude from the bus is almost there!
Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the film to go black and white, the music to get creepy and disjointed while trying to play I THINK London Bridges, and then he gets killed during the artiness. This would probably be an amazing scene if the transfer was better.
I'm honestly torn on the scene. I mock it, but I like the stylistic shift. Especially the music, which is super creepy and effective, but the scene goes on way too long, and that's not helped by the slomo. I didn't really need to watch nearly five minutes of a slow, artsy murder. But, there's worse ways to spend my time.
Like the next few minutes of a love scene between Rick and Julie when she confronts him about sleeping with Lovely. That's not much better.
Meanwhile, the kids are burying their evidence out in the snow, and they FINALLY reveal a closeup of the guy's nametag, revealing he's from a children's psychiatric hospital. Well, that's not good news.
Elsewhere in the plot, we have Harvey who can't speak up for himself with the Papa Boss and get a promotion, and his wife Ruth, constantly nagging him to do just that. She eventually drifts downstairs to get a little more drunk, and runs straight into the kids in the hall.
They do the whole cute, poor, abandoned kid routine, helped along by having trudged through the snow for a third of the film, and everyone falls for the act. Well, Papa Boss is a *little* sceptical. He didn't get where he is by being gullible, I guess!
We float through a few scenes of people doing their thing, and on the one hand, I want the movie to get on with it. Yet at the same time, I like the slower burn here, and the characters are drawn well enough that you want to spend this time with them. I'm not quite sure where I fall on the pacing here.
One of the kids, David, pays Harvey a visit, and I get the feeling the scene is supposed to be creepier than it is. As it is, it's a little flat, and just a regular scene of a kid chatting with an adult, and recapping the plot. Which is hardly necessary here. But David has this odd sense about him, and I feel like with a slightly different directorial intent, and maybe some different music, this scene could've turned out more effective and strange.
Hannah bonds with Ralph over doing the dishes, while the little rascals mess around with the house's emergency generator. Brian comes up and freaks out the nun by vaguely threatening Ralph, causing a commotion, and everyone heads to bed before there's any more excitement
Ralph heads out to fix the genny, and when he turns it back on, he...uh... I honestly don't know? I think he gets hanged somehow, from whatever the kids did? But again, not very clear. Ralph will now only be petting his bunnies up in heaven.
Everyone relaxes while Ralph hangs around, and David is inching towards being more creepy while playing chess with Harvey. Much better, kid. Down in the cellar, Rick and Julie are stealing some wine from the boss, and gasp! Julie is actually noticing something is weird with the kids! Hooray!
The kids are starting to show more signs of their problems, with David throwing a fit when he loses a game of chess, Brian lying and cheating...but more importantly, Moe notices Papa Doc's fish, and we find out he has piranha.
Papa Doc. Casually keeps piranha in his winter home in the middle of nowhere. This is the single greatest character detail I've seen in a Trisk movie. And I swear, if they don't go full Chekov's Gun with these things...
As much as I do not care about the whole will they or won't they subplot about Papa Doc's wife Lovely trying to seduce her former lover Rick away from Julie...I actually really like that Rick does NOT give in. The scenes are playful, fun, and shows his resolve, and says a lot about his character. It's just taking a lot away from the rest of the movie.
Rick leaves Lovely alone with herself, and heads out to find Ralph, because the heat and lights aren't working. Rather than see the body and think things are wrong, he and Papa Doc instead think suicide. Sigh.
So, let's see. Ralph's dead, the power is failing, there's no heat, the phones are down...that's almost every box on the final act checklist taken care of. Oh! And Papa Doc's car is missing a few parts so it's not going anywhere. Gasp! Who could do such things! Surely not the kids! They SAID they didn't do it!
Then we see one of the women primping and preening her hair in front of the mirror, until she whips off the hair and we see it's really David, and he is getting REALLY obsessed with Harvey. Okay, the movie just took a really strange turn, and I kinda love it. Although I don't know where the *wig* came from...
While I'm still waiting for the fish to be Chekoved, there WAS some *literal* guns hanging on the wall, that have suddenly gone missing, so there's that, at least! And all the knives have gone missing. The kids are definitely gonna be well armed.
And of course this is the moment when Harvey decides to ask for the new position he's been waffling over all movie long. Papa Doc seems baffled by the sudden appearance of a backbone, and I love Rick's little smile to himself when he sees it.
Harvey finishes off his demands, then goes out to chop wood "because he wants to" and not because Papa Doc commanded him too. Well, I'm sure he also 'wants to' not die of hypothermia overnight, so yeah!
To make matters worse, when David tries help with chopping wood, he doesn't do a great job of it, what with being 12 and all. Harvey teases and mocks him, all in good fun, but um... DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN MENTAL PATIENT!
Which goes about exactly the way you expect it to. When Harvey leans over to gather up the wood David did manage to chop up, gee, surprise! Axecutional!
And continued surprise when the kid tells the adults that someone else threw the axe at the guy. I will say I'm pretty bummed at the whole crossdressing obsessive subplot they seemed to be building towards with the kid and Harvey just kinda fizzled out.
Ruth doesn't take the news well, but she's found new respect for her dead husband, since he told off the boss as his final act. There's that, at least!
But with a murderer poking around, everyone's on egde, Rick says they should all stay together and head out when it's daylight, which is pretty sensible for these movies. And lasts all of five seconds.
Lovely's stressing out, understandably, and goes to take a bath. She finds Moe in her room, going through her things, and yells at the girl to get out.
Which leads to her bath being interrupted by Sister Hannah coming to drown Lovely. Y'know, I'm starting to think that girl is NOT a nun...
And yep, this is where we throw in the piranha! Yay! Chekov's Fish!
Rick sends Julie to get everyone, because they suddenly don't want to wait until morning. They quickly find the bloody mess in the bathtub, and a glance out the window reveals what we've known all along; It's the kids!
They would've gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those pesky adults!
With the death of his wife, Papa Doc flies off in a rage, and no one can stop him. Grab the popcorn! This is gonna be good, no matter which way it goes!
AND I AM NOT DISAPPOINTED.
Papa Doc chases the kids to Ralph's little hut, threatening to kill them all...but...but...holy crap. In swings Brian, on a literal swing they somehow rigged up, with a sword or something thrusting out from the seat between the kid's legs, and plunged it right into Doc.
Holy crap. That just happened. I forgive everything, movie.
They then lure Ruth outside to talk to the little pyromaniac she was bonding with, and surprise! They douse her with gasoline and Susan tosses a lighter on her. I dunno, with the amount she's been drinking all movie long, I don't think the gasoline was necessary...
Which is ultimately a shame, because I think Ruth genuinely cared for the girl, in the short time they knew each other, and she never did anything to her.
And in one of the WORST pieces of editing I've seen, Rick and Julie are trying to escape the house by stumbling around the basement. They find a door, but it's locked. "But wait!" says Julie. "We can get out this way!" And the movie suddenly cuts to them outside.
They literally ran off camera and exited the house. There's a power of metatextual cutting there, surely.
Of course, just as they reach the boat they were running for, Brian takes some shots at them and they rush suddenly back to the house. Where's your powers of editing teleportation now??
The couple barricade themselves inside a bedroom for the night, to bide their time until the snowplow arrives. Umm, these kids have shown themselves more than willing to play with fire. They can smoke you out faster than that, I'm sure.
Which they surprisingly DON'T do when met with a locked door. No reason, just...they don't. They could've burned down the whole damned house, but instead decide to head back to Ralphs and feed and rest. Could...could someone at least watch the captives? Could the captives at least try and escape?
...No? We're just gonna cut to morning, like everyone stayed where they should and got a good night's rest? Okay then.
But at least we kick the day off with David climbing a ladder and spearing Julie through the window. That is one way to get woken up.
While Rick mourns...well, EVERYONE being dead, the kids start to build a snowman around Papa Doc. Rick keeps an eye on them though, and spies an unattended gun and skies while the kids play.
Aaand he steps right into a bear trap. And falls over, landing on several more. Perfectly placed for each limb, but I'm actually gonna let the perfection slide. Because I like the creativity, and hiding them under the snow, and using the gun as bait.
The kids come running at all the commotion, what with screams of adults apparently being their siren song. They find Rick's struggling body (And not very bloody one, but I digress...) and start dancing around it with more creepy music.
Hannah's the last to come up, and she puts the poor guy out of his misery by slicing his throat, so that just leaves...
The movie is really gonna end this like this? Here? On this dark, defeatist note, with only the five killer kids, suffering zero casualities and marching off into the sunset?
Am I a bad person for kinda loving the movie for going this route?
Even better is the movie ends with the entire gang heading off to find new 'toys' to play with, and the movie even promises this is not "The End" but instead flashes up, "THE BEGINNING".
Sadly, no sequel ever came, did it?
Video: Oh look, another movie from one of the 50 packs! The quality is pretty bad, with far too much white blowing things out, and far too much black swallowing up the plot.
Audio: It sounds better than it looks, by far.
Sound Bite: "Four present and accounted for! Everybody else is flat dead!"
Body Count: Is this the first time ALL the heroes died, and all the killers walked away? If not, it's still a pretty impressive reversal!
1 - The movie's barely started, and at least a driver has died.
2 - A survivor from the bus gets to live long enough to follow the students and be killed for their film project.
3 - Poor Ralph gets hanged by an elaborate trap we don't see, but I'm going to imagine Jigsaw would be pleased.
4 - Harvey learns a harsh lesson about picking on the mentally unstable when David buries an axe in his back.
5 - Hannah and Moe team up to drown Lovely and feed her to the piranha.
6 - Papa Doc meets a very creative doom from a swinging sword flown in by Brian.
7 - Ruth ain't no phoenix, and dies in a pretty impressive burning.
8 - After a good night's sleep, Julie takes a spear to the neck.
9 - And all the good guys are dead when Rick falls into a few bear traps and gets his neck slit.
Best Corpse: No surprises here, Papa Doc wins this award hands down. How often can I say the killer swung in with a sword between his legs and killed a dude? And then made a snowman with the corpse?
Blood Type - C: Not a lot, and way less than there should be considering some events, but the piranha scene leaves a few stains in the tub at least.
Sex Appeal: Some brief flashes during the catfight, the sex scene, and Lovely in the bathtub.
Drink Up! Every time someone dies. Keep it simple!
Sights and Sounds: Wow. Wow, did this movie have a few scenes worth sharing. I almost shared the lengthy, artsy death. I almost shared a few of Papa Doc's scenes. I came SO close to sharing the awkward seduction of Ralph. But again, no brainer; Papa Doc's death scene!
Movie Review: Well, this one isn't great, let's be honest. But a lot of that comes from the time. Early 70s was not exactly a heyday of great horror. The pacing is off, and the movie tries a bit too much to be artsy. Still, there's some good moments here, and the story has a decent enough set up and payoffs throughout. It's more a victim of the 70s than anything else, and I can't fault it TOO much. It does some unique things, and once things kick off in the final act, they just don't stop. Three out of five crazy sword swingsets.
Entertainment Value: For something from the 70s, I am surprised at how much I really loved this movie. The acting is actually really good in places. Each of the kids has a distinct personality, there's no real stereotypes, they each have their goals... The adults are good too, with Papa Doc being a clear standout, Harvey having an actual character arc, and Rick being a very solid character. Even Julie has a few moments before her untimely end. The interactions come off as genuine, and even though the acting is solid, they're still a bit strange at times, across the cast. But the biggest stand outs are the deaths. This movie, THIS movie of all things, has some of THE MOST CREATIVE and memorable means of death I've seen in awhile. I was getting really worried about midway through that this would be another 50 pack turkey, but then people started dying and I sat up with rapt attention straight through to that ballsy ending. This is very much a Trisk must see. Five out of five Papa Doc snowmen.