Horror The Devil's Candy (2017) 9/10

Jethro

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"If you have the slightest bit of greed in your heart, he will turn it into an avalanche. He will slither into your soul." - Preacher

Jesse, a struggling artist and heavy metal fan, moves with his family to an isolated Texas house that was the scene of a couple of murders by a deranged individual. His wife, Astrid, is a bit hesitant about the move but is kind of excited by the whole home ownership thing. Hey house going cheap in a horror movie, what could possibly go wrong. Teenage daughter Zooey is also into heavy metal but isn't your typical teen chick, so all's good there. Immediately on moving into the house things seem somewhat strange, Jesse is getting obsessive about painting and loosing time.

Meanwhile a rather large dude, who was involved in some prologue murders, is hanging out at the local motel and has some rather undesirable thoughts towards the local children. He becomes fixated on Zooey after giving her his Marshall Flying V guitar, playing said guitar apparently stopped the voices in his head that had all sorts of interesting things to say. Am I making this movie more complex than it needs to be? Anyhoo Jesse is still obsessive about a massive painting of children dying in extreme fashion and it takes Astrid to point out to him that Zooey features prominently in the painting. Things clearly are not going to end well, and our large dude Ray Smilie starts making unexpected house calls. Strap in for some high voltage heavy metal thunder, of the horror kind!

The Devil's Candy, watch the movie to get the title, is one of those movies that you think is going down a certain path only to find it is something infinitely better than you expected. I wasn't the biggest fan of Sean Byrne's previous movie, The Loved Ones, in fact I found it grossly overrate - we do not have fracking Proms in Oz people, but think he has hit a home run with The Devil's Candy which is pretty much up to viewer's interpretation. Don't believe the advertising this one isn't a satanic helter skelter it is a journey through the dark psyche of the human condition and talks about obsession, mental disorder, head banging metal, and yes there could be the hint of hell fire in the air. Probably the best thriller since Se7en, if you want to interpret it that way, or something darker, if you want to interpret it in that light. Director Byrne is throwing the movie onto the table and is pretty much leaving it to the viewer to determine just what they might be seeing.

To break down some of the misconceptions around this movie, the whole heavy metal thing is decoration rather than the central focus of this exercise into the dark lands. Jesse and Zooey are into the screaming guitars and Ray uses a loud guitar to drive the voices from his head but that's kind of where it ends. There are no playing albums backwards to decipher satanic messages, there are no looney bin cults, and for sure there's nothing like a spawn of Satan dropping tunes to corrupt the youth of today. Classic metal fan here so was across the overtones of the soundtrack, but equally don't think we should all be claiming the second coming of Deep Purple here. Ask your parents Kids, insert Guns and Roses if you remember those guys. Damn youth, grow your hair and quite that damn finance job!

Guess we should talk about his satanic majesty right about now, and this is where Candy gets real interesting and director Byrne decides that the audience should do some thinking for themselves. Ray hears satanic voices telling him to do some very naughty things, is this simply due to him having a few Roos bouncing around in the top paddock or is the house a gateway to hell, a sort of rural Amityville 112 Ocean Avenue if you like. For sure when Jesse and team buy the house he starts to act strangely and suddenly has this muse that drives him to do a couple of paintings. However Byrne is saying make your own mind up, the evidence is there for any number of interpretations and for sure I didn't take the "devil made me do it" track that would seem to be the prevailing viewpoint. That just seemed too simple an interpretation to fall back on in this multi layered puzzle Byrne has constructed.

or sure there is a recognisable antagonist in Ray Smilie and the dude is memorable, probably for all the wrong reasons, but hey hell yeah excellent performance by Pruitt Taylor Vince. The dude is huge and lumbering, sort of a slower Leatherface but of a very similar build. While he initially seems to be something of a gentle giant this changes very rapidly till he is simply dripping with malice, one encounter he has with Zooey after lights out is pretty creepy. He is also one grubby individual, gets worse as the movie progresses, anyone tasked with washing his undies has a job of work.

Strangely the movie does tend toward Western ideals of storytelling with three acts rocking down the house down. We also get the hero's progress with Jesse forced out of his safety zone and into family protecting duties. Mean use of a guitar by the way, Pete Townsend approves, pity a drum seat wasn't also deployed, but you can't always get what you want.

Sean Byrne certainly has his horror tactics at clear and present danger levels. There's a surreal atmosphere throughout helped by a heavy metal soundtrack that drives things along and have to say the barely heard satanic mumbles were adding to my chill factor. Byrne doesn't bother with jump scares, but he certainly has the body count mounting from time to time. Surprisingly he doesn't show any mayhem that happens to kids, which would indicate there are some lines he isn't prepared to cross though at least one child meets a pretty sticky end.

So yeah gorehounds won't be screaming at the moon, but your average horror fan is going to be nodding his or her head in approval. T&A isn't happening for the guys as Byrne doesn't see the need for it, he has built a serious horror movie that relies on tension and atmosphere and he brushes his canvas with broad strokes that are mesmerising. The girls get Ethan Embry in his reg grundies but by this stage he is serious into maniac painting fever, your call there ladies.

The Devil's Candy is another example of a serious horror movie that rises from the genre to sit alongside the best of the year, but hey who's going to admit something good is going to happen when the horror label is in use. Don't believe the marketing on this one or some reviews out there that only touch the surface of what is going on in Candy, the movie has depth and leaves the actual diagnosis of what is happening to the audience. Got to like a Director that has faith in the viewer rather than explaining every facet of a movie. Full recommendation on this one, if you enjoy good horror romps then this one is pretty sweet, well worth buying the actual disc.
 
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