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  Devil Times Five Little Monsters
Year: 1974
Director: Sean MacGregor
Stars: Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans, Taylor Lacher, Joan McCall, Shelley Morrison, Carolyn Stellar, John Durren, Leif Garrett, Gail Smale, Dawn Lynn, Tierre Turner, Tia Thompson, Henry Beckman
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A bus is taking five children from one psychiatric hospital to another, via a long drive through the snowbound forest, but halfway along the driver loses control in the icy conditions and the vehicle crashes, overturning and killing him in the process. The children clamber out and assemble to get their bearings, and decide to go as far away from the scene as possible, as their case worker is in the wreckage and they cannot take the chance that he might still be alive. The place that happens to be on their route to freedom is a ski lodge where a group of well-off couples are holidaying - but their vacation is about to turn nasty.

Eventually, anyway, as this was a very slow moving film, as if the cold weather had sent a chill into the the bones of the cast and crew rather than the characters. For a while it looks as if the most notable thing about Devil Times Five is that the opening credits list feature one Mr Wank followed by one Mrs Blowitz, both names to conjure with, but have a little patience - OK, a lot of patience - and this very strange film does eventually come up with something memorable. This is one of those efforts where the behind the scenes stories may well be more bizarre than what occured in front of the cameras, but what we do know is that the original director was fired partway into the production.

This might explain why the whole film does not exactly run smoothly, but whatever the directors replacing Sean MacGregor did, they certainly shook up what was threatening to become very boring indeed. Maybe boring was the wrong word, as if you were unaware of the events of that last half hour you would be tempted to bail out as no matter that the psycho kiddies bump off their case worker in the early stages, it is filmed in such a dreary, slow-motion fashion that thrills are thin on the ground. What is thick on the ground is snow, offering at least a distinctive appearance to proceedings, but aside from everything looking freezing cold, there's not much good to be said about it.

The funereal pace might be bad enough, but then you have to sit through what looks like a soap opera someone from Mars might have thought up, with the couples intended to be specific types, but proving hard to relate to otherwise. The Dukes of Hazzard's Boss Hogg himself, Sorrell Booke, was probably the biggest name among the adults, playing a meek doctor whose alcoholic wife wishes him to stand up to the boss whose idea this whole skiing holiday was (note: nobody in this goes skiing at any point). He is known as Papa Doc (Gene Evans), in no apparent way connected to murderous dictators, but our real main characters are the pair Rick (Taylor Lacher) and the woman looking young enough to be his daughter, Julie (Joan McCall).

Throw in a sexually active old flame of Rick's who wants him back, Lovely (Carolyn Stellar), and the stage is set for... a catfight? Well, we get one anyway, another example of how weirdly disjointed this is, and that's not even getting into the fact that those escaping children are out for blood. When they show up they cut the telephone lines so the lodge loses contact with the outside world, but they do tell the truth about being in a crash, just leaving out the whole psychopath bit. They each have their quirks, so one is a budding soldier, another a nun, and teen idol Leif Garrett is a cross dresser, but it's their tendency towards violence which the filmmakers most planned on for disturbing the audience. When they do murder, it's in a cartoonish fashion, not over the top really but hard to credit as believable: axe to the head, scythe on a swing, and the one everyone recalls, the piranha in the bathtub. Not a good film, then, but curious and that last act slaughter is, um, unusual and wakes up the snoozing viewer. Music by William Loose.

Aka: Peopletoys
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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