8/27/2017

The Devil's Candy (Review)

Title: The Devil's Candy
Writer/ Director: Sean Byrne
Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco, Tony Amendola, Craig Nigh
Year: 2015 (Released 2017)

Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) is a struggling artist, with an affinity for heavy metal music, which his young daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) also shares. The two of them, along with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby), move to a countryside house. They reluctantly choose it after the realtor tells them both that two deaths occurred in it. After the family settles in, Jesse begins to hear voices which inspire him to paint images that are nightmarish and hellish in nature. The worst part is that he shares these voices with Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince).
Ray is a creepy overweight man who deals with the voices by playing loud music on his guitar and, also, by killing kids. One night he pays the family a visit and tells them that his parents died in the house. It doesn't take long for this creeper to take an interest in Zooey. In fact, the next day he gives her his flying V-guitar. Understandably, Jesse isn't very happy about any of this, and becomes vehemently angry. Although, Zooey does eventually manage to convince her dad to keep the admit ably awesome guitar. Jesse continues to get more consumed by the voices and paints continuously more horrific images. But, in the meantime, Ray is determined to kidnap and kill Zooey.
After Sean Byrne's feature film debut, the superlative The Loved Ones, how does his follow up film, The Devil's Candy fare? The answer is simple: it is one of this year's finest films, horror or otherwise. Creepy and wonderfully acted this movie is not just a great genre flick, but a loving letter to heavy metal music.
Bryne  achieves the honor of being the scariest film of the year, by keeping much of what happens grounded in reality. While, there are supernatural elements, most of it is founded on very real fears that any parent would have. This is driven home by the character of Ray, as he is excellently portrayed by Pruitt Taylor Vince. He is so creepy that anytime he is onscreen there is an uneasy and unnerving feeling that immediately creeps under your skin. You truly fear for the safety of Zooey anytime she is in his presence. You see, unlike boogeymen like Freddy or Jason, he, for the most part, feels very much real.
Zooey is wonderfully bought to life by Kiara Glasco. She is a realistic and likable girl, that we immediately connect and care for. And, her relationship with her dad Jesse is at the heart of the movie. Ethan Embry is equally excellent in that role. Their love for heavy metal music, brings them closer and makes us metalheads connect with them. And, even if you are not a fan of the music, you will undoubtedly want to cheer for them.The cast is rounded out by the beautiful Shiri Appleby as the mom. I have long been a big fan of Ms. Appleby and as such always wanted to see her in a quality horror flick. I am glad to see that finally happen. Her acting is filled with pathos and heart adding to the loving and likable family quality at the core of the movie.
Bryne's love for heavy metal is a driving force in the film. The music plays a big part in the story and in the characters, as they talk about and show their love for the music (watch out for Metallica and Slayer T-shirts, as well as a Metallica bobble-head!). The soundtrack also rocks hard with blistering music from the aforementioned Metallica and Slayer, as well as Pantera and others.

The onscreen violence is realistic and graphic. Bloody squibs and bludgeoning are among some of the unnerving acts of violence that hit you the viewer. Sure the overall body count is kind of low, but when the movie hits, it fucking smashes. Byrne builds to a tense and violent climax, which will have you clenching your seat as your nails dig into it's handles. It all leads to an ending with a coda full of pathos.
The Devil's Candy is a another masterpiece from Byrne. Two movies into his career and he is already leaps and bounds ahead many of his contemporaries. This gets thrown around a lot, even by me, but he is truly part of the future of the genre. He has delivered what is without question the most frightening film of the year. Filled with excellent performances and strong character relationships, it stands head and shoulders above so much of the interchangeable and forgettable genre flicks that lumped on us. Its villain is one of the most unnerving and creepy bad guys seen in a horror film in years. The motion picture is topped off by a profound love of heavy metal music, including it's use in the killer soundtrack. In all, The Devil's Candy is a must see movie, and with it currently streaming on Netflix, there is little excuse for you not to.

 
4 out of 4

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