Directed by: Sean Byrne
Premise: A starving artist and his wife and daughter move into a rural home. He begins feverishly producing disturbing paintings that might be inspired by a demonic force. Meanwhile, the former resident of the house intends to sacrifice their daughter to the voices in his head.
What Works: A lot of horror films take place in domestic spaces. Pictures like The Stepfather and Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror prey upon our anxieties about the integrity of the nuclear family but also the contamination of the American Dream which is entwined with homeownership. The 2017 feature The Devil’s Candy is an exceptional example of domestic horror and it is an effective haunted house picture. In many cases the crux of these films is located in the family relationships and that is the strongest element in The Devil’s Candy. A married couple and their daughter move into a rural home in the Texas countryside after the previous homeowners died and their son was institutionalized. The father and daughter relationship is central to The Devil’s Candy and despite how uncanny much of the film is the most impactful scenes are rooted in everyday parent-child moments. The father and daughter, played by Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco, are close and share a love of heavy metal music. The father, despite his macabre artwork and tattooed appearance, is emotionally vulnerable especially when his success as a father is impugned. The father-daughter relationship has a lot of reality to it and that lends credibility to the rest of the picture and makes it frightening when the daughter is endangered. The Devil’s Candy is skillfully crafted. It uses sounds effects and music very well. There is a recurring motif of a demonic voice whispering instructions and it’s very creepy in a subtle way. Other ambient sound effects similarly get under the viewer’s skin. These are blended well with a soundtrack that includes songs by Pantera and Metallica which in turn match the heavy metal aesthetic of the film’s visual style. There are some astonishing and haunting images in The Devil’s Candy that channel the demonic imagery of heavy metal album cover art.
What Doesn’t: The Devil’s Candy treads on making a bigger or deeper statement about homeownership. This film was made in the aftermath of the home mortgage collapse and hints of that catastrophe linger in the background of the story; at one point the father is shown in proximity to a stack of overdue bills and threatening correspondence. But The Devil’s Candy doesn’t do anything with that idea and the filmmakers miss the opportunity to connect the supernatural evil with the greed and malfeasance of the housing crisis. The filmmakers don’t explain much about the supernatural element. In a way that works for the film; part of the fun and frights of supernatural stories is their irrationality and they sometimes go wrong when the filmmakers over-explain and rob the haunting of its mystery. But The Devil’s Candy would benefit from a little more background that would fill in what the evil is, what it wants, and why.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes, a short film, music video, image gallery, and trailers.
Bottom Line: Upon its release in 2017, The Devil’s Candy earned acclaim from horror fans but it didn’t get much mainstream recognition. That’s a shame because this movie would play quite well for a non-horror audience. It delivers shocks and an atmosphere of dread but it also has engaging characters and a unique cinematic style.
Episode: #719 (October 7, 2018)