Five extremely disturbed, sociopathic children escape from their psychiatric transport and are taken in unwittingly by a group of adult villagers on winter vacation. -imdb.com
The Devil Times Five or Peopletoys as it was originally called is a low budget, very indy horror film from 1974. It stars… no one. Is directed by… no one special… and has a legacy of… being a low budget indy horror film from 1974. And sucking. Ah yes, The Devil Times Five does indeed suck, mostly due to its amateur filmmaking. Now I’ve dealt with amateur film makers before, in my video review of The Legend of Sorrow Creek, but I wasn’t as fair to it as I should have been. It was the first directing and writing job of Michael Penning, so some tolerance should be given. I was planning on giving the same fairness to this film’s director, Sean MacGregor, but then I discovered that this was his third movie as a director, and that he had done both writing and acting for quite a few years before this. And yet he some how managed to make a movie that makes Chain Letter look like fucking Citizen Kane!
The technicals in this film are a nightmare, with too many visual and audio mistakes and continuity slip-ups to count. Just the very camerawork itself screams basic film school, with different takes noticeable to a snob like me. While the average viewer won’t notice that, what they will notice is the almost constant snow on the lens whenever they’re outside! The special effects are… nonexistent, with the exception of a rather good fire stunt. The rest of the kills are fairly bland, most of which being impossibly intelligent, but unique traps. To compensate for his $0 budget, MacGregor uses different camera “tricks” to little effect. Such as putting the footage in slow motion, in order to create a “surreal effect” that will somehow convince us that the beating the victim is getting is real. However, it clearly wasn’t shot for slow motion so we get a choppy mess for wayyyy too long as the kids spend minutes wailing on this guy, who’s identity is only properly explained after he’s dead. Another kill uses a freeze frame and slow motion to get away with an axe to the back of the head, almost making you think it’s the end of a 80s sitcom. The audio work is not terrible, but it’s quality overall is fairly low, leading to you having an even harder time understanding what’s going on.
The acting is, big shocker, a fucking nightmare. The adults either over or underact, all the while being generally unlikeable. Shoutout goes out to the actor who did a good job as Lenny from Of Mice and Men, I mean the housekeeper. The kids do an occasionally good job coming across as psychotic, but the majority of the time they are just obnoxious little shits. Speaking of the child actors… they do a lot of fairly traumatizing stuff for kids that these days a filmmaker might not be able to get away with. They see someone on fire, they swear, one of them cross dresses, they hold guns, the list goes on. I know it’s a weird, but if you are dumb enough to watch this film after reading this review, imagine doing that stuff as a kid and you’ll see what I mean.
The writing is probably the second worst part of this movie, because it wouldn’t be as bad as it was if the technicals could back it up. The pacing of this movie is all over the place, with scenes going incredibly slowly or just being completely superfluous. This is usually almost immediately compensated by a huge time skip, leaving us confused as to what just happened and it takes a good while to catch up. That’s something you’ll do a lot of with this movie, catch up. It’s hard to follow, as the nonsensical dialogue teams up with the aforementioned issues to confuse the crap out of you if you stop paying attention for a few seconds. The beginning was the worst example of this. I must have missed some dialogue in the first scene, because the lack of basic exposition on the characters and their relationships, coupled with the dialogue and awkward scene transitions, had me confused for a half an hour. Even if you do pay attention to the story, there’s not much to actually derive from it. It’s a fairly simple movie, perpetuated by genius children and outright stupid adults to keep the plot going. Actually, if this movie were any complex, odds are I wouldn’t have been able to follow it at all, so maybe simplicity is for the best.
The Devil Times Five is… a movie. It’s not that much fun to watch, even for its weird premise. It’s a dull movie at its best and a confusing movie at its worst. It may or may not be nunsploitation, but it definitely is childsploitation. The credits of this movie say it all. Instead of “The End” it says “The Beginning” displaying its stupid and cheesy nature and the extremely short crew list show how lacking this movie is, not just in budget, but in skillful filmmaking. If you really want to waste your time on a cheesy low budget 70s horror film, then do yourself a favor. Skip this waste of time and go see Death Bed: The Bed That Eats instead. You may or may not thank me later. You know, if you think Death Bed sounds like an interesting watch, or you’ve seen it, then you might as well give this a watch since you’re prolly the kinda person that would like this kind of movie and appreciate it’s offbeat crappy horror style.