Devil’s Candy, The (2015)
★★★★ / ★★★★
There is a moronic belief amongst various fundamentalist religions that heavy metal is the devil’s music. But what if heavy metal is the only sound that can drown out the devil’s eerie whispers? “The Devil’s Candy,” written and directed by Sean Byrne, is a lo-fi horror picture that is so effective, at times I was reminded of the excellent slasher picture “Halloween,” directed by John Carpenter. Although Byrne and Carpenter’s films are from entirely different sub-genres, their common link is how much they are able to accomplish with so little.
It uses a familiar template, but it is able to rise above what we come to expect from family-moving-into-a-murder-house with seeming ease and grace. The screenplay proves superior in that it drops small nuggets of foreshadowing on a consistent manner without being so obvious as to hammer us over the head by how it is trying too hard to be smart. And so when an important event happens, we recognize its portent details alongside being truly disturbed by the numerous plot developments. Its entertainment value never comes across as cheap.
It is willing to play with different ways to scare the audience, from jump scares, terrifying images, situational horror, to one’s belief, if any, when it comes to the supernatural. Each scene is exciting because we never know which type of scare we are about to get, assuming that it will not be a false alarm. The sheer energy of the material makes it highly watchable. In addition, the performances by Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, and Kiara Glasco—who play the family who purchases a house with a questionable history—are strong and this strength matches the story executed with specific vision. I cared about the Hellman family. I wanted them all to survive by the end even though it is unlikely.
Equally intriguing a performance is delivered by Pruitt Taylor Vince, a portly man who hears the voice of the devil. When bright lights are on him, the character does not look intimidating. However, when the light is dim or when we see only the outline of Ray’s large frame, he is fearsome and seemingly unstoppable. In some ways, he is like Carpenter’s Michael Myers: you can hit him, run away from him, or make him retreat… but he always comes back to get what he wants. He rarely speaks. And pain doesn’t seem to bother him all that much.
“The Devil’s Candy” offers no satanic rituals, no sacrifices involving goats or rabbits, not even men and women in robes chanting in a circle. No, it does not have a stupidly shallow, cliché dream sequence either. But it does offer a deeply unsettling feeling that burrows in the mind as it unfolds. By the end, you’ll be asking: Was there really the influence of the devil… or was the plot triggered by something far more grounded, something that culturally, specifically American culture, we are ashamed to talk about because of the stigma that comes with it?