31 Days of Horror - Devil Times Five (1974)

aka. The Horrible House on the Hill
aka. Tantrums
aka. Peopletoys (what an awful title... I'm so glad they moved on from this)

When five mentally deranged children are the only survivors of an insane car wreck (like seriously that van rolls down the hill for a good mile at least), they come upon a mansion filled with couples on a business trip and the poor, slow caretaker of the estate. Upon the discovery of the children, the adults have no choice but to co-exist with them since a snowstorm has them trapped in the house.

Obviously mentally deranged children are gonna start doing mentally deranged shit without their necessary counseling, medication, and supervision, and thus a horror film is born. So, the kids start wreaking havoc and murdering these rich chumps in varying levels of originality.

This movie does better at characterizing the kids than the adults who are all kinda tired archetypes. The leader of the children is Brian (Tierre Turner), a kid whose intense obsession with the military is enough to make you go "maybe there's something wrong with that kid". He's joined by: David (Leif Garrett), a compulsive liar who can't handle criticism; Sister Hannah (Gail Smale), a little nun whose disgust with her burgeoning sexuality makes her do impulsive things; Moe (Dawn Lyn), a pip squeak little girl who can't handle people wronging her stuffed animal; and Susan (Tia Thompson), an adolescent arsonist. They all have their favorite methods of killing, and they all get blood on their hands.

Coming out in 1974, it doesn't surprise me that the premise of this movie involves seemingly innocent children maiming and torturing adults. This was such a popular trope in the '70s that it quickly became cliche. To be fair, this film (despite its title which is actually a reissue title) does not involve satanism. Instead, the children's mental issues are just that. This film does not come up in discussions of The Omen or Rosemary's Baby - not because of the lack of satanism - but because it's just mediocre.

It'd be almost pure grindhouse mayhem if the effects were better, most of the deaths were a bit more interesting (to be fair, they do put a bunch of piranhas in a bath tub with some lady and trap a dude in three bear traps which were great ideas though lamely executed), and the film didn't have an awkward, uneven pace. There's also a little transphobia thrown in there for good measure when -- inexplicably -- the film has a brief scene showing David dressed as a girl admiring himself in the mirror ("OH DEAR GOD WHAT KINDA INSANITY WOULD MAKE A LIL BOY DRESS LIKE A GIRL").

This film had such a great name and I found it on YouTube, so I was hoping to unearth a new forgotten-by-time favorite, but I guess, like the children, I will just have to move on to a new house of people waiting to be brutally murdered.

5/10 stars.