The Devil’s Candy is a 2015 horror movie that was only recently released in the United States (17th of March) and in limited theatres around Europe. Nevertheless, it’s also been distributed straight on Amazon, where it can be rented for a reasonable price. Since it came out in 2016 only in Russia, whereas for the rest of the world it’s a 2017’s movie, I also consider it as a film that came out this year.
And, honestly, The Devil’s Candy is quite the surprise of 2017 so far.
Directed by Sean Byrne, who brought us the widely praised The Loved Ones, The Devil’s Candy – 78 minutes of runtime for the theatrical cut – tells the story of Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry), a painter who now must sell out a little more regularly to pay off a new mortgage for the new house where he moved with his wife and teenage daughter. A few weeks before, in the same house, a mentally ill man killed his parents because he heard voices in his head: the same voices that torment Jesse, pushing him to paint in a state of trance.
As I mentioned above, The Devil’s Candy is pleasantly surprising, starting off with the acting: every single cast member did a great job embodying the respective character. Embry, who is usually an average comedic actor, is eye-grabbing in this movie, being able to handle a wide range of emotions and, simultaneously, giving a superb physical performance. Indeed, he frequently paints without his shirt on, unveiling us his tattoos and muscular frame, which gives to his character a physical dimension much needed in this movie.
Yet, Ray Smilie – played by Pruitt Taylor – is great as the main villain, the guy who wonders around and kills people with stones. Every single time he’s on screen, he emanates an aura of dread and unease. I was also impressed by the performance of Kiara Glasco, who plays Jesse’s daughter Zooey in a compelling way and is very well flashed out. On the contrary, her mother Astrid is a rather flat character, although the actress who impersonates her, Shiri Appleby, makes the best of the script she works on.
However, the main character of The Devil’s Candy is probably the overall atmosphere, both the cinematography and the soundtrack. Every character is framed perfectly within the single shot; wide takes create great visuals; the colours and their tonality are masterfully balanced; the camera-work, combined with the editing, is amazing. Seemingly, the eerie and unnerving soundtrack conveys a sense of urgency and desperation that gets under your skin.
Nevertheless, this film has some small and some big flaws. As I mentioned above, the character of Astrid is not given much to do throughout the movie to the point that she becomes necessary only at the end. Another nit-picking revolves around the pace, which is quite uneven during the first 15-20 minutes, going from 0 to 100 with no explanation.
However, what unfortunately downgrades The Devil’s Candy is an outwardly useless and confusing subplot involving a rich paintings’ buyer who prefers the ‘demonic art’ of Jesse over his previous works; and an ending which, although fairly enjoyable, is also fruitlessly ambiguous and unnecessarily symbolic.
If the first weakness can be explained by the fact that the theatrical cut was 15 minutes shorter than the original version – not allowing the director to expand the subplot – the ending is slightly disappointing (at least to me), although it doesn’t ruin the movie. But I bet it will piss off many viewers.
With all of that said, I obviously recommend you guys to watch this film. If you can’t get the chance to see it in theatres, due to its limited release, you can always rent it on Amazon, it’s worth your money. Cheers!