REVIEW: CANDY LAND

  • Director: John Swab
  • Writer: John Swab
  • Stars: Olivia Luccardi, Guinevere Turner, Sam Quartin, Eden Brolin, Owen Campbell, Brad Carter, William Baldwin

REVIEW

Affectionately referred to as Lot Lizards, the sex workers who service the long-haul driving industry are often people we only learn about in true crime documentaries. Most of the world still seems to think a sex worker is only important enough to mention when they become the victim of a murderer, but Candy Land takes us into their world and allows us to see them for what they are: human beings.

Sadie, Riley, Levi, Liv and Nora live in a motel where they have created a kind of family. In between servicing the customers at the truck stop motel where they live, they find support and love with one another. It is quickly established that Nora is the maternal figure, and the local sheriff (William Baldwin in a very sleazy performance) is not only corrupt but has an unhealthy obsession with Levi. As we travel through their days and learn the ins and outs, we meet Theo and Remy: members of a religious cult, they are quick with their judgement and warn the group that their sinful lifestyle will prove deadly.

While Nora (Guinevere Turner) is the madame/mom of the group, it’s Sadie (Sam Quartin) who is the emotional center, so it’s unsurprising when she chooses to take Remy in after being left at the truck stop. Exiled from her religious cult for unknown reasons, Remy is now taking refuge with the very people she was previously judging. When a murder takes place at the truck stop, everyone is on edge, but ultimately write it off as a random occurrence and go on with their lives. Poor decision. This is a horror movie, and the killing has only just begun.

Writer/director John Swab (Ida Red) has done something unique with Candy Land: he has made a slasher film wherein you actually care about the victims. This film harkens back to the independent cinema heyday of the 90’s with its grimy feel, lecherous camera angles and characters who have accepted their bad hand in life with a breeze of coolness. Sam Quartin as Sadie excels at being a lost soul with a strong exterior and Owen Campbell proves once again (My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To – being the first example) that he is the go-to guy for lost puppy dogs who just need to be taken care of but should never be messed with. In fact, the entire cast delivers their characters with a pitch perfect sadness and apathy that would make Gregg Araki proud, but it’s Olivia Luccardi as Remy who really has to deliver as the cult member: this could have easily gone into the territory of mockery, but Luccardi keeps it grounded and believable throughout her unlikely arc.

At times, Candy Land takes itself a bit too seriously, but confoundlingly, not serious enough when style is being upheld over substance in certain moments, and the final needle drop is a curious choice for multiple reasons, however, Swab and team have successfully, and respectfully, told the stories of people we don’t usually hear about and, more than that, they make us invested in them and their survival, which is a nice change in a slasher.

Candy Land on Digital January 6 also in select cinemas on the same day

Lisa Fremont

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