By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas, US)
Artistic and frightful are two characteristics that rarely go together to provide a description of a film. In this case, these words are perfect descriptors of this independent horror film. The Devil’s Candy focuses on the narrative of a young painter who decides to move into a new house with his family. Only to find out that this house contains demonic forces that begin to approach this artist specifically causing him to create some visually frightening works of art. This film is an excellent example of how important a sense of visual creativity is to the horror genre. This style is an elaborate and eccentric use of marvelous filmmaking that not only strikes you visually but roots itself deep into your mental faculties with its menacing narrative and eerie imagery.
Opening with a fantastic shot of a giant demented man playing a loud single note on his Flying V electric guitar while he faces a cross with Jesus on it, so that he can’t hear the demonic voices trying to speak to him. This opening shot is so entrancing in how it creates questioning and how it also provides an introduction to the tone of the film. From this opening, we as the audience are on a suspenseful and psychologically bewilder you with its ongoing unpredictability with its narrative. Originality is hard to come by in the filmmaking world, but it is especially hard to obtain in the horror genre. The Devil’s Candy is original in numerous ways, starting with how it’s filmed. The Devil’s Candy has some of the best visual design of the year so far. Simon Chapman, the cinematographer, does an excellent job of indulging the audience with the development of these shots. The way the lighting and color palette interact with each other is visually engrossing, and then you combine this enchanting cinematography with the nearly perfect editing to continue providing motivational reasoning for film buffs to see this movie.
Adam Canny has practically sound editing in the movie with the way he makes his transitions seamless and how he cuts the mysterious images together to reflect the internal conflicts occurring in our central character. He combines this near flawless editing with Sean Byrne’s outstanding direction to create a superb example of how important the art of technical filmmaking is to the horror genre. Another facet that makes The Devil’s Candy stand out in this overcrowded genre distinctly is the way Sean Byrne takes clichés and turns them on their head. An example of this assertion is how the character development of our heroines who are fans of the metal or Goth artistry.
Now the stereotype of these characters has always painted people who love that form of art as hateful and rude. Someone who cares about no one but themselves and hates everyone but themselves, however in this film Sean takes those clichés and turns them around. Instead, he chooses to display how people that love this art are still people deciding to give them characteristics such as kindness, generosity, and humility to provide reasoning to love these characters. Instead of expecting to dislike them, I began to welcome them with open arms and continually enjoyed this evasion of clichés.
The pacing of The Devil’s Candy is also something that should not be overlooked. With the first act being focused with longer shots and slower editing. Then the timing of the shots diminished, and the speed of the editing accelerates until the third act arrives. The pace continuously quickens to reflect the suspense and to comparatively represent the psychological battle going on inside the mind of our hero. The speed is heightened in the third act with a white knuckling sequence that truly digs into your psyche with its horrific imagery. Ethan Embry and Pruitt Taylor Vince occupy the standout performances of the film. With Ethan portraying our heroin with a gritty and aggressive look as well as an honest and bewildering portrayal through his dialogue and his movements. Pruitt Taylor Vince has another strong character performance of portraying this demented almost innocent or childlike villain. Acting as if he’s a child who doesn’t know what he’s doing in certain scenes which are necessary due to his troubling backstory.
The great aspects of technical filmmaking, the creative writing, and these strong performances make The Devil’s Candy stand out, yet the flaws of the film hold it back from being a preeminent example of what makes the horror genre essential to the art of filmmaking. Centering around how the third act of the film feels a bit out of place with how the writing has been subtle and grounded in the first two acts. While the third act is an explosion of action and suspense that was off putting with the original tone set in the first two acts. This rapid change of tone doesn’t necessarily conflict with the original tone, but it is distracting for a few moments. There also is a lack of character depth for the heroine’s family. With the wife given only a few scenes of character development and the utilization of the daughter for plot development. There is character building in The Devil’s Candy, but if the character depth was deepened or amplified. I feel that the third act would have had that intensity magnified and it would have ended the film with a more enthralling sequence.
The Devil’s Candy is a splendid addition to the horror genre and a brilliant example of how to write an original horror narrative. By taking real-life sociological and family driven quandaries and amplifying them through either metaphorical representation or mesmerizing cognitive battles. Instead of using monsters or CGI filled images to create horror, Sean Byrne uses these real life horrors of family quarrels such as unreliability, untrustworthiness, and neglection. He takes these authentic nightmares and heightens them by combining them with supernatural forces just as all of the other unrivaled horror films achieve. Reminding us that we should never be afraid of monsters, but instead afraid of the real nightmares that we face every day as human beings and the consequences that they create if we choose to embrace them.