Review: The Devil’s Candy
Back in 2009, director Sean Byrne bestowed his ambitious feature debut, The Loved Ones, upon us and it was met with mostly rave reviews. After a six year drought, and another two years to release, we finally get our grubby hands on Byrne’s ferocious follow-up, The Devil’s Candy. I’ve arrived at that unfortunate point in my life where I am almost always expecting to be disappointed by modern horror films. If I just tell myself ahead of time that a film probably won’t be good, and keep my expectations low, then it won’t be such a bummer when the film sucks. I must say, though, that I did think the trailer for The Devil’s Candy looked interesting, but that’s the job of a trailer’s editor, and they can be deceiving. Nevertheless, I find myself in that familiar place, with that familiar fear in the back of my mind, so I take a deep breath and press play.
The Devil’s Candy centers itself around the Hellman family, Jesse (Ethan Embry), his wife, Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and their preteen daughter, Zooey (Kiara Glasco). They decide to purchase a large, secluded home in rural Texas after receiving a deal they couldn’t refuse. Of course, that deal came with the news of the realtor having trouble selling the house due to the tragic deaths of the previous two tenants. They quickly manage to put this news behind them and begin making the house their home. Then, one day, there’s a knock on their door. What’s waiting for them on the other side will haunt their lives forever.
I prefer to keep this review spoiler-free simply because I found the film to be so fantastic. It did so many things right throughout that I don’t feel the desire to ruin it for anyone. I’ll start by saying that it has pretty much everything I look for in a horror film. Sure, the story itself could have been a little more developed, but it more than serves its purpose. It almost felt like it could have been torn straight from the pages of a Clive Barker novel at times. It’s simple, but effective. It also succeeded where many other recent horror films fall short, and that’s developing characters that you actually give a shit about. You even sort of feel for the antagonist. This is paramount for creating any sort of suspense, which this film was chock-full 0f. The Devil’s Candy delivers a beautifully-shot, suspenseful horror film, rooted in religion, with metal, doom, and drone music comprising the majority of the soundtrack, and somehow manages to not come off as too cliche or cheesy. It’s one of the first heavy metal horror films of a serious nature that I can recall actually working. The majority that came before it, such as Trick or Treat (1986), Black Roses (1988), or Shock ‘Em Dead (1991), while all awesome flicks in their own rights, all had more of a campy vibe to them in comparison.
I definitely don’t speak for everybody, but I mostly find myself at war with modern horror. I’ve all but given up on theatrical horror and the CGI-filled action films Hollywood tries to mask as horror these days. Suspense and dread have been replaced with jump scares and CGI. I understand that cash is king, but to pretend that filmmakers like James Wan actually gives a damn about horror after watching him release sequel after sequel, milking his already lackluster films dry, is only a testament. If you’re looking for horror made from the heart of a horror fan, with actual passion behind it, you’ll rarely find it in theaters. These filmmakers are on their own beaten path, hiding in the shadows. You just have to know where to find them (typically VOD). Every time I find one of those diamonds in the rough, I am filled with that same warm feeling inside that I had when first getting into horror as a kid, and I’m reminded why I love horror so much. The Devil’s Candy gave me that feeling, and I cannot recommend it enough. Even if you’re not a fan of metal, or the devil for that matter, or maybe are just one but not the other, there is still plenty here for you. So please, even if it’s only for an hour and a half, just grab yourself a drink, pop some popcorn, kick up those feet after a long day at work, and let Satan into your heart.