Friday, August 11, 2017
The Devil's Candy (2017)
DIRECTOR: Sean Byrne
WRITER: Sean Byrne
Pruitt Taylor Vince
When a struggling painter, his wife, and their pre-teen daughter purchase a rural farmhouse. They are informed that the owners before them died on the property. Due to the house selling for such a low price, they decide to buy it. One night, the son of the previously deceased owners shows up and claims that it's his home and that he wants to return. After this short meeting, things start to turn sinister and there may be darker forces at work.
I remember back in 2009, sitting down in a cinema here in Australia and watching director, Sean Byrne's first feature film The Loved Ones. After the film had finished, I remember turning to my mate at the time and telling him that we may have just witnessed a masterpiece of Australian horror filmmaking from a director that we will need to keep a close eye on. The Loved Ones was violent, deranged and at times darkly hilarious. I feel in love that film.
The Loved Ones came along at a time when Australian horror was having a sort of resurgence of excellent and quality genre films. We had the terrifying Wolf Creek a few years prior that sort of blew up on the festival circuit and was a home-grown hit. We also had the bleak and brutal crime horror film Snowtown which put the 'bodies in a barrel' murders on full display. All three were low budget, gritty and extremely dark. All have grown to become masterpieces of Australian cinema in my eyes.
Cut to six years later. The year is 2015 and I begin hearing early rumblings that director Sean Byrne has made a new film. The Devil's Candy plays a few festivals but completely disappears. Listening to an interview with Ethan Embry and Sean Byrne, I discover that Sean Byrne is quite the perfectionist and we finally get his sophomore effort eight years later. Once the film is finally released, I hear a lot of positive word of mouth around the film from critics and horror fans. This makes me extremely excited to watch his new film.
After I sat down to watch The Devil's Candy, I was left a little underwhelmed with the finished film. I think the overly positive word of mouth and the extremely long wait to finally see it just didn't live up to the hype I had for the film. That's not to say that this is a bad movie at all, it's actually a very dark and well-made slice of rural satanic horror. I just expected I'd be giving this a nine or ten and it falls just short of that. Still, it's a film that deserves to be seen. I think this will make lots of top ten lists come years end.
My favourite element of The Devil's Candy is the family dynamic and relationship between the three of them. I really enjoyed the father and daughter bond. I'm not exactly a metal fan but I loved watching this father and daughter share their love of metal music and connect by way of it. I thought that was a nice little touch. If Sean Bryne does something right, he makes us really care for this family. We spend all this time with these people that once the shit hits the fan, we want to see all three escape. This all falls back on how well the characters are written.
When it comes to the satanic side, I think this is really well done. Religious horror has become so saturated in the realm of horror that it all looks and feels the same these days. It's rare that we see a religious themed horror movie that feels original. For most of The Devil's Candy, the plot felt like I hadn't seen this sort of story to date. It felt original to me. Using metal music to drown out the devil's voice that was slowly taking over our lead character and villain was a nice touch. I also enjoyed that they were connected by two different art forms. I thought the painting and metal music elevated the story.
Where The Devil's Candy let me down was the final ten minutes. While not exactly predictable, the movie descends into familiar territory. The movie ends in a bloody showdown between villain and family and it felt like the sort of ending that I've seen in a hundred other horror films. For most of the running time, I was left on edge by where the story was going but once the two come colliding together, I felt a little let down by it. It starts off promising with a few gut-punches where I thought certain characters were shockingly killed off but they sort of cop out in the end.
The acting is excellent. Ethan Embry has become quite the actor. I can remember being a young teenager and loving him in comedies like Empire Records and Can't Hardly Wait. I'm glad to see him tackling much darker roles. Here he is at a career best. Shiri Appleby is underused. She is great in the scenes that she's in but I felt like her character wasn't used enough. Kiara Glasco as the daughter is fantastic. She gets put in some horrific situations for a young actress and she smashes it out of the park and lastly, Pruitt Taylor Vince as the villain is fantastic. He's played his fair share of villains and this may be one of his creepiest to date.
Lastly, when it comes to suspense and scares, The Devil's Candy was well done. From the very first moments, we begin to hear the voices that are talking to our villain and this happens all through the movie. The voices alone put you on edge. I thought they were genuinely creepy. The movie never tries to dish out jump scares and is more occupied in building dread and suspense. I think it does this rather successfully. I think this is also helped in the way that Sean Byrne sets up these scenes. A lot of gorgeous cinematography is used effectively in these moments.
DEATH TOLL: 5
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A guitar is smacked into someone's head.
- A woman falls down the stairs and dies.
- A child is smacked in the head with a rock.
- Two people are shot.
- Two police officers are smacked in the head with a rock.
- Someone is repeatedly punched in the face.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a guitar.
- A police officer is crushed in between two cars.
- Someone is kicked in the face.
- Shots of someone mopping up blood.
- A finger is shoved into bloody bullet wound.
The Devil's Candy is a movie I waited eight years to watch. While the movie is a worthy follow up to the brilliant The Loved Ones, it sadly falls short of Sean Byrne's brilliant debut. What it does successfully is breath some originality in the religious horror sub-genre. The film is heavy on character development which makes us care for these characters and the performances are excellent. The movie loses points for Shiri Appleby being underused and the final ten minutes which felt very formulaic.