The Devil’s Candy (2015)

Directed By: Sean Byrne
Written By: Sean Byrne
Starring: Ethan Embry
  Shiri Appleby
  Kiara Glasco
  Pruitt Taylor Vince
The Devil’s Candy

The Devil’s Candy is Aussie director Sean Byrne’s follow up to the hugely enjoyable low budget cult hit The Loved Ones. Much like The Loved Ones, music takes a central role as likeable parents Jesse and Astrid Hellman, and their sassy metal-loving daughter Zooey, take up residence in a new country home. Buying the house for a steal, they soon learn that the previous tenant might not be quite ready to give up his beloved domicile, and that dark forces might be at play.

The Devil’s Candy succeeds in doing the one thing that seems to go under-valued by lesser directors, and that’s give us a handful of characters to invest in. The Hellman family are relatively normal people, they have a dynamic that feels real and wholesome, and they give the audience people to actually root for.

What solidifies Byrne as a talent to watch though, isn’t his visual flair or his knack for writing three-dimensional characters, it’s his ability to present alternative culture in a realistic way. So often are we shown characters that subscribe to a particular subculture and are wafer thin caricatures, usually there solely for comic relief. Byrne’s films present these people carefully and lovingly. Their music preferences and affinity for black clothing and body modification aside, the Hellman’s could be any other American family, and that’s what makes them great. Given that The Devil’s Candy was made in the same year as the hilarious Evil Dead homage Deathgasm, maybe we’re entering a new advent of diverse horror movie protagonists…although perhaps I won’t hold my breath.

Ethan Embry cements his well deserved comeback as the charismatic metal-head patriarch Jesse, and Shiri Appleby shows some under-used acting chops as his loving, bread-winning wife Astrid. Rounding out the cast are Kiara Glasco as just-the-right-side-of-precocious teen Zooey and the ever dependable, but somewhat typecast bad guy Pruitt Taylor Vince as Ray Smilie, who ironically, never smiles.

Where The Devil’s Candy really shines though are the truly tense moments in between the dialogue. The use of deafeningly loud guitar riffs, Pruitt Taylor Vince’s affinity for playing quietly intense weirdos and a bizarrely claustrophobic unease that runs throughout all add up to a memorable experience.

Special mention also goes to the attention to detail; the artwork being outsourced to an actual artist giving the film a more credible feel and original music by Sunn O))) rounding everything out nicely.

At the risk of using a rather tired quote, The Devil’s Candy is a bare bones horror movie that really cranks everything up to 11, and is a winning antidote to the usual slew of teens-in-peril movies that we’re used to because of it. Despite some moments being telegraphed quite early on, it’s not a film that ever feels predictable. There’s a climactic scene that dances on the outskirts of cheesy but Byrne somehow plays it with a straight face and manages to pull it off, so everything considered The Devil’s Candy is a must see for fans of original horror.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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