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The Devil's Candy

Cory Everett · 1 · 704

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Cory Everett

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on: November 30, 2015, 02:46:51 PM

Directed by: Sean Byrne
Starring:  Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco
Synopsis: A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas, in this creepy haunted-house tale from Australian writer-director Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones).
Release Date: TBD 2016

For Polka.

About a third of the way through this film, I had what has to be the most distressing thought an audience member can have during any horror film, "Oh no. I really like these people." Because you know it's going to be all downhill from there. These people are the Hellmans, a a lower-middle class Texas family that includes dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), mom Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco, who resembles a teenage Angelina Jolie) and they're on a head on collision with Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince, basically playing his role from Identity), a serial killer who hears voices, or rather, one voice in particular, Satan himself who beckons him to bring him children.

The family aren't exactly sketched in broad strokes, but rather in quick ones. They're very specific, dad and daughter listen to heavy metal, we don't know a ton about mom, etc. But when these lovely family members are put in peril, boy will you squirm. There's one moment in particular that comes near the operatic climax of the film where one of the main characters lives are in jeopardy and you're really not sure if Byrne is the type of filmmaker who's willing to pull the trigger. But boy is it exciting that he might be. There's a difference in killing off major characters for shock value and doing it in a way that feels earned. The film is about making choices and there's some stuff set in the art gallery world that's as darkly funny as it is chilling.

With just two features under his belt, Byrne has earned his place as one of the most exciting filmmakers making horror films today. Unlike, say Eli Roth who has always been slightly disappointing for trying on horror subgenres like new outfits, Byrne plays with familiar elements but the results at least feel fresh and distinctive. And whereas The Loved Ones could crassly be identified as "torture porn" and had a few squirm inducing sequences that had even hardened horror fans covering their eyes (drill, meet forehead), until it's Grand Guignol denouement the violence in Devil's Candy is almost entirely psychological.

Visually the film looks really good too. It may not have been shot on film (I'm not sure actually) but it thankfully steers clear of the clean shiny digital look and frame stuttering that's infected too many micro budget films. Other than some iffy fire FX, it feels unmarked by many of the bad habits permeating indie film today.

Any movie that can earn ending with Metallica's For Whom The Bell Tolls should certainly earn your 90 minutes.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.