It’s not often that I’ll watch a film three times in the space of three consecutive days, however, after first viewing Sean Byrne’s fear fuelled feature whilst travelling through the placid green British countryside, I knew I had just discovered what can now be helmed as a new favourite horror film. If you ask any film fan, most will agree that they have their top five films and that never really changes as they’re classics of the industry or genre and will always be regarded highly for critics alike. Because of that, hypothetical movie lists never change that much, so it’s a life-changing moment when something grabs you by the ponytail and smashes your “set-in-stone” movie list into realisation. My moment came when witnessing the heavy metal clad, inked, bloody and burnt carcass that is The Devil’s Candy.
After deciding to move into a rural and beautiful countryside house, detached from the outside world yet offering tranquility and a get ahead in life, Jesse, Astrid and their daughter Zooey finally seem settled. When the family have an uncomfortable and unexpected encounter with a previous tenant, their life takes a horrific turn to desperation and unadulterated terror as they realise they might be dealing with the Devil himself.
Giving a longer synopsis than this seems like a spoiler in itself, so this time around we’ll keep it short and sweet. Sean Byrne is the twisted mind behind The Loved Ones, and for anyone who has already seen the torturous daddy-daughter movie, this one will have been on your radar for the seven years that it’s been in production. In the modern horror realm, he’s successfully given himself a recognisable title as an appreciated and well-deserving director of horror, whom most of us can’t wait to see more from. This time around Byrne knew exactly what he was doing when he paired satanism with heavy metal, artwork and dismemberment. His vision is brought to life by the incredible acting from Ethan Embry as Jesse (who definitely is an eye pleaser the whole way throughout the film…), Shiri Appleby as Astrid, Kiara Glasco as Zooey, and not to mention Pruitt Taylor Vince as the most convincing, horrifying and frightening possessed slaughterer possible.
We’re given a plot that takes the fairly basic concept of demonic possession and turns it into something far more real and much more sinister – pushing the realm of realism into an overused horror trope and succeeding in scares. Although the audience is aware that Taylor Vince is being controlled by a spirit that holds no soul, and therefore acting not of his own accord, the way it’s presented pushes us towards a feeling that is less about supernatural forces and more about the ability that every man and woman possesses what it takes to commit heinous acts of evil. Jesse is an average Dad fighting to protect his one and only daughter from something that could happen to anyone’s child; abduction, torture and a brutal death. No parent is perfect, and Jesse proves that as he makes mistakes which lead to to terrible consequences, leaving him blaming himself, even though it was inevitable no matter the sequence of events. The powerful bond between father and daughter is constantly called upon, and is both an escape from the menace and a way into his hands.
Others have mentioned that the film is essentially “uneventful”, but they’ve clearly missed the point of how powerful a subtle horror can be. There isn’t much that scares me when it comes to horror movies, but something that does keep me awake at night are scenarios that are firstly, very possible outside of a plot line and secondly, play more on our internal and mental fears of the anticipation and gut feeling of intuitively knowing something awful is going to happen. That sense of horrific, panic-driven foreboding makes the veins pulsate, makes the palms sweat and the mind nervous, so nervous that the tension is almost unbearable. The Devil’s Candy is uneventful in the fact that it’s not every ten minutes someone gets a slicing and dicing, but it is littered with scenes that perfectly embed themselves in our cortex to remind us during those quiet times that something evil is happening.
Throughout the film Jesse is spoken to by a dark and disturbing voice, that puts him into a lucid state where his nourishing creativity is taken over by a higher being, causing him to create some of the most beautifully fucked up artwork. It’s something I would hang in my home, but I would lay awake at night worried it might conjure my worst nightmares. The Devil’s Candy features a scene that is visually outstanding; whilst Jesse is in his transitioned state, frantically splashing rusted tones against his canvas of horror, we flitter between this scene and the image of our bad guy cladding himself in black bin bags, and preparing to harvest the flesh and blood of a child no older than ten. As Jesse swipes deep blood red paint across his board, we see the splattering of the child’s spilled blood as a hacksaw is taken to the limbs, with a vibrant crimson being brandished across the clean cut white tiles. This contrast between colours and tones, switching between blood and paint in a heartbeat, backed by an intense soundtrack, really sells the connection that transcends between these horrific murders and the message that is flowing through Jesse’s paint-tips onto paper.
If you’re also a fan of metal and rock music, then you will absolutely adore the soundtrack for this film. Much like how Deathgasm pulled together a combination of heavy metal and horror, The Devil’s Candy has done the same but with a more serious and sombre tone. You’ll hear the likes of Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, Slayer and Machine Head, which all add to the ambience of the movie.
The Devil’s Candy carefully burns one end of the candle, creating a hellish canvas which has been tarnished by the brush of evil. The descent into child sacrifice is a soulless and disturbing affair, one that can only find saviour in the power of love between father and daughter.
Verdict: 5 out of 5