The Devil's Candy was pretty much buried on Netflix, and it's only because I regularly make a pass through the horror section that its artwork caught my eye (see above - how could it not?). So I read the blurb, took a swift look at the IMDB and Letterboxd pages (more to see what its average user rating was than anything else) and that was enough. Onto the list it went.
This was written and directed by Sean Byrne, whose only other horror credit seems to be The Loved Ones. The plot revolves around a close family of three (mum, dad, daughter) moving into a new house and strange, dark forces at work both inside and out of their new home.
|Daughter and father metalheads|
The house seems to speak to those with an open enough mind to hear it, including dad Jesse (Ethan Embry - who has come a LONG way since Empire Records) and Raymond (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a troubled individual who used to live there.
Jesse is a struggling artist and takes over the garage/barn area of the new place to paint. However, even for a metal fan, what ends up being committed to his canvas in this new studio takes an extremely dark turn.
Going into rapture-like states to create these images, Jesse loses all track of time, painting solidly for hours on end and failing to pick up his daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) from school on more than one occasion.
The images he creates are frightening. The reason he's creating them, we learn eventually, is extremely tragic.
Taking place during an unnaturally hot Texas summer, this feels oppressive and intense. Jesse most of all is seen sweating and/or shirtless, a panicked and pained expression permanently on his face as he tries to make sense of what is threatening his family.
❝He's no mask in a Halloween store, he's not what you see in the movies. He is an active, violent, anti-God personal reality. And as much as we refuse to admit it, he lives through us.❞
− TV Preacher
An "active, violent, anti-God personal reality" is a perfect description of the villain in this movie.
I could not shake how much Raymond looked like Harvey Weinstein, too. Just to add another layer of evil repulsiveness on top of an already detestable character.
It's not just in atmosphere that this film succeeds; stylistically too, The Devil's Candy knows what it's doing. Watch for the use of light in the final shot, and for the scene with cross-cutting between paint hitting the canvas and blood spilling from a murder. There really isn't much gore to be had in general here, with the more brutal stuff happening off camera, but the glimpses of a bathtub dismemberment are more than enough to unsettle.
This one may be my favourite new discovery so far this month. Simple, satanic, stylish, and streaming on Netflix now. At 1hr19mins it's definitely worth the time commitment.