For those who like a little heavy metal with their horror, The Devil’s Candy, filmmaker Sean Byrne’s long-awaited follow up to 2009’s The Loved Ones, should satiate your craving.
Struggling artist, Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry), along with his wife, Astrid (Shiri Appleby), and their daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), move to a large farmhouse in rural Texas. They snag the property on the cheap due to the deaths of the previous owners. The owners also left behind a seriously disturbed son, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Ray hears demonic voices who instruct him to kill the neighborhood kids. The children are the Devil’s candy.
As the film begins, the Hellman’s are a tight-knit unit, with Zooey being a perfect metal-loving mini-me to her dad. Both Jesse and Astrid are hardworking and devoted to the family. However, soon after moving in, Jesse begins to have visions, which he puts to canvas, of dead children. The forces compelling him to paint are also interfering with his familial responsibilities, putting Zooey in danger.
It’s been wonderful to see Ethan Embry have such a career resurgence over the last few years. Independent genre films suit him and he does not disappoint here. Embry spends a great deal of the film without a shirt, showing off his insanely fit physique, covered in tattoos, with long hair and goatee. The outward appearance is tortured artist hard, but as soon as he smiles and speaks, especially to his family, he’s completely sympathetic.
The Devil’s Candy, technically, falls into the possession category of horror, although it doesn’t spend a great deal of time focusing on that plot point, mercifully. It plays closer to a serial killer film with a supernatural subplot. There is a plethora of both holy and demonic imagery, from the stunning stained glass cross on the Hellman’s front door to the upside down cross burned into the wallpaper in Zooey’s room. Byrne does not shy away from the disturbing process of what Ray does to the children once he has them, which can be a bit tough to watch.
Certainly, the film not without its issues, particularly where the plot is concerned, but they’re small and getting into them would be nit-picking. Overall, this is a visually captivating film that keeps you engaged and, occasionally, cringing, throughout its less than 90 minute runtime.
The Devil’s Candy is available on iTunes and in limited theatrical release now.
Suzanne Bell | Twitter: @chazensjezebel