The Devil’s Candy (2015) [REVIEW]

LOOK AT HOW FUCKING METAL THIS MOVIE IS! Guitars! Flames! Shirtless dudes with tattoos! You guys better strap in, because The Devil’s Candy is certainly NOT for lame-ass poseurs. Or, well, it possibly could be, but you’ll have to wait and see. This movie has been doing the festival circuit for quite some time now, but guess what? It’s finally getting released! Like, people will actually be able to see it! I’ve heard reactions all across the board about this movie in the last two years so I’ve tried to temper my expectations, but ultimately delivers on its promise; there’s metal, guitars, and shirtless dudes with tattoos. Oh yeah, and I guess it’s a pretty decent haunted house movie was a disgustingly evil score by SUNN O))).

You need a spooky painting? Yeah, we got you a spooky painting.

Struggling artist Jessi (Ethan Embry) will do whatever it takes to make sure his family gets a good home. Since he’s not making as much money as he wants to, this means moving into a house that’s been made far more affordable because its last two residents died in it. Shortly after moving in, Jessi starts feelings compelled to create pieces of art that he doesn’t remember making, all with disturbing subject matter. Also strange, one of the house’s former residents (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who tries to spark an incredibly uncomfortable relationship with Jessi’s young daughter. As the story moves forward, Jessi gets more involved with his terrifying art, the former resident has a harder time staying away, and it’s clear that the house has a dark hold on anyone who spends too much time there, pushing even the most wholesome characters to terrifying places.

This dude’s still bummed he couldn’t hook up with Liv Tyler in Heavy.

I was only lukewarm on writer/director Sean Byrne‘s last film, The Loved Ones, despite everyone absolutely loving it. Devil’s Candy left me with a similar result; I enjoyed elements of it conceptually, but in practice, nothing really came together how I wished it had. This film has Satanic elements to it but is never really about the Devil. Most of the time, the film feels like a standard home invasion thriller, but then the Satanic elements creep in and not explored thoroughly enough. The most successful elements of this horror movie are actually the dramatic beats, thanks to Embry showing a side we don’t often get to see him explore on film.

I know I glazed over the plot (because I didn’t want to spoil too much, ya doofus), but the relationship between Jessi and his daughter is far more complex and terrifying than any of the horror elements of the film.  Jessi is clearly not the bread-winner in the family, but he doesn’t let that get to him. It’s never explicitly explained, but it feels like there’s some sort of trauma or rift between Jessi and his daughter, which makes him burn to be not just her dad, but also her best friend. He makes decisions that aren’t always the best as a parent, but the best thing to do as a friend. Seeing Embry struggle with his vulnerability while also projecting an authoritarian image of infallibility was hands-down the most compelling aspect of Devil’s Candy. The film falls much more in line with haunted house movies like The Amityville Horror or The Shining, where you see a father figure descend into a shitty father figure, but under the premise of some Satanic mumbo-jumbo. Yes, there’s metal in it, but nothing about the music was intrinsic to the plot. Had all of the metal been removed from the film, it wouldn’t have felt any different, but yes, hearing the demonic riffs and guttural chants provided by SUNN O))) gave more of a feeling of unease, but having Jessi wear a Metallica shirt and listen to Pantera didn’t make the film more interesting. If haunted house movies are your things or you enjoy horror films where the perfect family can be dismantled by demonic forces, The Devil’s Candy will definitely be for you.

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