Review Date: February 28, 2007
Released by: Code Red
Release date: 11/21/2006
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
The concept of the murderous youth is perhaps one of the most unsettling topics in all the cinema. From Village of the Damned
to The Omen
to The Doom Generation
, and Itís Alive
to The Brood
, these killers stay in the mind because of their disturbing lack of motive. They offer no villainous monologues. No explanations. They kill, and their aimless disregard for life stood as reminder that the corruption of seventies culture, from riots to Watergate, had permeated even into the most innocent of American vessels Ė its children. Devil Times Five
was another of those seventies pictures to capitalize on the killer kiddie concept, and after numerous drive-in showings, has since become a cult favorite. Code Red, making sure even the cheapest of American schlock horror finds its voice on digital, has outfitted the film in a new special edition. Time hasnít been kind to Leif Garrett, so how has Time treated the Devilís Five?
A yellow VW bus straight out of Little Miss Sunshine
kicks off the film as it drives through some snowy rural roads. The vehicle apparently crashes due to some really poor fast-motion effects, and then rolls in slow motion down a hill. Out from the wreckage emerge four little kids. One a practicing nun, another a wannabe soldier, another a dead ringer for the main girl in Village of the Damned
, and an innocent looking little tyke. The title wouldnít be true without the emergence of Leif Garret, who crawls out of the vehicle, cursing at his peers. Theyíve apparently killed the adults in the vehicle, and now they head out in the wilderness searching for their next victims. Their motive? Another poor optical effect, this time a freeze frame on a name tag, reveals they are escaped from a mental institution. So there you go.
As they trek through the wilderness, it becomes clear that not all the adults are dead. One of the male wardens chases closely behind them, but he makes the mistake of wandering into an abandoned barn. The kids are inside waiting for him, and each takes their turn beating him to death, by chain, by pitchfork. The little devils hide the body, and finally come to a large cabin, where a group of adults are currently shacked up. Papa Doc (Gene Evans
) owns the retreat cabin, and it was his choice to assemble his daughters, their husbands, and his other business associates to spend some time away from the city. While some of the couples are looking for sex and some relaxation, he still has business on the mind. The kids want to kill though, and thankfully their pursuits prevail, because whatís a horror film with business meetings and mid-life crises?
After the kids enter the house, they are accepted by open arms by the adults. Things quickly (well, if killing with about 15-minutes left in the film counts as quick) change for the worst though, when the fab five start to tire of their superiors. Leif loses a chess game, and Leifís sister becomes fascinated by piranha, and before you know it, there are axes to the head and piranhas in the bathtub. One by one, the adults make the worst possible logical decisions, until finally there is only one left to face off against the tykes. So what does our final hero do? Inadvertently fall on not one, not two, but three bear traps. If victimization were this easy in horror films, Michael, Freddy and Jason would be out of work!
Devil Times Five
is a painfully low-budget and amateur work that really should have been so much more. The children themselves have a scary look, and their opening murder, sepia and in slow motion, is startling in its raw and extended carnage. Itís all downhill from there though, in a production clearly plagued by incompetence, as the original director was fired after turning in a directorís cut of 38-minutes. In retrospect, thatís probably all the length the film needed to be, or perhaps even shorter, but the producers saw fit to extend it to 85-minutes.
Instead of using the reshoots to try and give the film a semblance of plot, the filmmakers sought instead to add a lengthy scene where a woman seduces a mentally handicapped man, and several others where the adults boringly discuss their personal issues. The latter would be okay, I guess, should the characters be the least bit sympathetic. But truthfully, every adult acts with such total idiocy, that the last thing you want to do is spend more time with them. The adults act so immaturely, and handle the horror so incompetently, that it probably would have been a far better film had the producers edited the footage into some role-reversal comedy along the lines of Vice Versa
. Because really, it is impossible to take anything seriously when a group of adults, all knowing the kids are responsible, fail to even pose a single threat to any one of the kids. Where is the tension when the closest an adult gets to challenging one of the kids is beating him at a game of chess?
The logic of our final, fatal bear trap man is beyond words. His wife is just killed (you know, they didnít hear one of the kids put a large metal ladder up to the window, climb up, and throw a harpoon) and even though he can see all the kids, all without weapon, he decides to instead stay locked inside a room and wait until dark, as the kids mobilize an attack, before even setting foot outside the room. One of the kids is probably four years old. She can barely hold up her head. Yet, this muscular adult, nor any of them, canít even put up a fight. It is so illogical, especially when their lives on the line, that it is impossible to take the film seriously. The kids set up and bury five bear traps right below his damn window, and yet he walks outside as if he never could have seen it coming. I could see maybe stepping on a tack like in Home Alone. Sure, they are small, quiet. But a fucking bear trap. And five of them. Setup by five loud and obnoxious kids. Iím sorry but this guy deserves to die, and so does everyone else in the film.
The pacing is awful, with the murders not really commencing until about the 70-minute mark. When the kids do start their attack, any suspense is nullified by the grating and totally awkward soundtrack, that sounds more canned than Spam. It does not gel at all with whatís happening on screen, and makes a poorly strewn together film even more frayed at the seams. Like to many other lost drive-in pictures of the time, the film has a great concept and a great title, but the people behind it havenít a clue what to do with it. Devil Times Five
is a mishap of a movie, a total missed opportunity, and compared to other low budget child shockers like Bloody Birthday
, its childís play.
Code Red presents a nicely cleaned-up 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer in welcomed progressive scan. There are a few bits of dirt here and there, but considering the age and troubled production history, it is a miracle they were able to get it this clean. However, like The Forest, the print for this film has been very poorly handled, with several fogged edges due to light being prematurely exposed to the edges of the frame (someone opened an undeveloped can of film!). There are several long sequences that suffer from these faults, sometimes occupying a good 30% of the frame. Other than this unavoidable fault in the print, Code Red has done a good job cleaning it up, and an even better job with color correction. The seventies pastels are restored with true vigor, and after seeing that red shag carpet, it is tough to step back into modern times without an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. So while the print may not be stellar, Code Red has done an acceptable job restoring it.
English mono is all thatís here, and it is often tough to hear, as the levels fluctuate from scene to scene. Some of the quieter dialogue scenes between the adults will require the volume to be turned up compared to the scenes with the children. A prevalent hiss encompasses this entire track, and since this is a positive print used in theaters, with every splice comes a noticeable sound glitch. It sounds its age.
This disc comes with Code Red consistency: a commentary, home video interviews, a bunch of trailers and an opening alternate title seuqnce. If youíve experienced Code Red supplements before, you know what to expect here. The interviews, which feature two of the kids, Tierre Turner and Dawn Lyn, one of the adults, Joan McCall, the producer, Michael Blowitz, and the co-director, David Sheldon, look like shit, but the film has a rough history, and that translates into good entertainment. The interviews run about twenty-minutes, and have the interviewees describe the problems with the original director, as well as outline their memories of the filmís actors whoíd go on to be future stars. Fun stuff. An easter egg, which requires some ďlookingĒ for, has Tierre Turner animatedly talking about the stars heís worked with in the past, from Pam Grier to Linda Lovelace(!).
The commentary is with all the interviewees minus Tierre Turner, and while they offer a nice group dynamic, they donít really offer too much of constructive input. With the juicy details of the production covered in the featurette, this commentary, moderated by Darren Gross, is very forgettable. They talk about continuity flaws (as if they werenít already obvious) and people involved behind-the-scenes, and then mostly just joke about what is happening on screen. Most admit to never even having seen the film before, so the results are fittingly banal.
The disc is rounded off a very short alternate title sequence (seemingly culled from the trailer), a short poster gallery, and the usual plethora of Code Red trailers. This time, unlike with Doom Asylum, the trailers are presented here in a nice menu. Hereís what you have to look forward to from our folks in Red: Donít Go in the Woods
, Love Me Deadly
, School Girls in Chains
, Sweet Sixteen
, Beyond the Door
and The Secrets of Sweet Sixteen
Iíve had fun with Code Redís previous releases, either legitimately (Doom Asylum
) or in a perverse masochistic manner (Donít Go in the Woods
, The Forest
), but here I was counting down for Devil Times Five
to reach its eighty-five minute mark. While the promise of a film in the vein of Village of the Damned
was appealing, the drawn-out pacing, stupid character logic and awfully irritating music made this an exercise in tedium. Fans of the film will be happy though, because Code Red has presented a cleaned-up transfer, even if the materials they have to work with are far from pristine. Theyíve assembled a good amount of interviews too, enough to satisfy pretty much everything anyone ever wanted to know about the film. If you like it, youíll want this baby, but otherwise, adopt something better, like Bloody Birthday
or The Brood.
Movie - D
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C-
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Commentary with actors Dawn Lyn and Joan McCall, producer Michael Blowitz, co-director David Sheldon and moderator
- Cast & crew interviews
- Theatrical trailer
- Trailers for other Code Red films
- Poster gallery
- Alternate opening