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Review: Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy (2005)

Directed by: David Slade

Premise: Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a photographer and a pedophile, meets a Hayley (Ellen Page), a fifteen-year-old girl, in an internet chat room. When the two meet in person, the predator-prey roles are turned and Jeff finds himself the object of torture.

What Works: Hard Candy is an extremely well done film. Despite its incendiary premise, the film has more in common with the work of Alfred Hitchcock than the exploitative gore fests of more recent years. Instead, the picture holds back, hinting at what has happened and using psychological games to create an atmosphere of danger and perversion. The visual style is gorgeous and crafted to support the dramatic action; it has a similar look and feel of Asian horror films like Audition. As an entry in the horror genre, Hard Candy has taken the traditional Gothic premise and flipped it around to play against audience expectations. The result is a film that is morally confusing and the audience is bound to find their allegiances shifting from one moment to the next.

What Doesn’t: This is as controversial and intense as films get. Audiences who expect filmmakers to deliver prepackaged good and evil in the narrative are going to find Hard Candy difficult to take. The film challenges the audience and not everyone will be receptive to this. 

DVD extras: Commentary tracks, deleted scenes, making-of documentaries, DVD-ROM features.

Bottom Line: Hard Candy is one of the most provocative films to come along in some time. Unlike many films of its type, this film manages to be incendiary without being exploitative and genuinely engage the audience with ideas and psychological violence. This is a brilliant, subversive film that is one of the best entries in the genre in a long time.

Episode: #115 (October 31, 2006)