• Devil's Candy, The



    Released by: IFC Films/Shout! Factory/Scream Factory
    Released on: September 26, 2017
    Director: Sean Byrne
    Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco, Tony Amendola, Leland Orser, Marco Perella
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    Having made his mark on horror fans around the world with his 2009 revenge thriller The Loved Ones, Australian filmmaker returned to the genre after six years with The Devil’s Candy, a contemporary updating of classic haunted house fright flicks like Burnt Offerings and The Amityville Horror. After playing the film festival circuit to moderate acclaim for a few years, Byrne’s much-anticipated second feature secured a limited theatrical release from IFC Films (as part of their horror-themed “IFC Midnight” line) and now comes to Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and their ever-expanding Scream Factory imprint.

    By the time The Devil’s Candy reached theaters and home video, ten minutes had been removed from the original 90-minute film festival cut. Genre devotees who aren’t fond of movies running any longer than a last-minute proctologist appointment may have been pleased by this editorial decision, but that leaves Byrne’s latest endeavor without much of the proverbial meat on its bones. Even with its truncated running time, the film spends much of its first two acts spinning its wheels at a sluggish pace, and only when there’s around fifteen minutes left before the credits roll do things finally pick up.

    The screenplay, also written by Byrne, tells the story of struggling painter Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry), who moves with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) to a beautiful old house somewhere in rural Texas. The Hellmans initially can’t believe their luck at finding such a huge and welcoming home on their threadbare budget, but it just so happens that two people were murdered in the house in a case that has yet to be solved. Even creepier, the murder victims’ mentally unhinged son Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince) has returned to the house and immediately takes a shine to young Zooey after they discovered a shared love of guitars.

    Promotional materials for The Devil’s Candy play up the presence of heavy metal classics from Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera on the soundtrack (among many others), and both Jesse and Ray are unabashedly middle-aged metalheads. But before you start thinking Byrne’s film is a slice of headbanger horror in the vein of Trick or Treat or the more recent Deathgasm, the music doesn’t play much of a role in the story outside of simply underscoring certain scenes. If you’re looking for over-the-top violence and flesh-munching monstrosities brought to life through the finest practical effects of today, you need to look elsewhere.

    Byrne opted for a moodier film that hints at the presence of demonic forces that start to possess Jesse and manifest their hold on him in the form of the horrific images he paints once the family moves in. Later in The Devil’s Candy does it become clear that Jesse and Ray share a strange mental bond that allows our protagonist to transform acts of murder committed by Ray into nightmarish works of art. These paintings begin to get Jesse noticed by the art world and the erudite dealer Leonard (Tony Amendola) implies to Jesse than the up-and-coming family man might just have what it takes to succeed as an artist as long as he’s prepared to sacrifice the ones he loves in the pursuit of fortune and glory. This is just one of several subplots that Byrne frustratingly leaves unresolved or just refuses to develop enough to have any sort of impact within the larger narrative.

    With haunted eyes and some lovably unruly facial hair reminiscent of Amityville Horror star James Brolin, former child actor (Dutch) turned young adult actor (Empire Records, That Thing You Do, Can’t Hardly Wait) turned indie genre mainstay Ethan Embry has more than his share of standout moments as the spiritually besieged Jesse. Kiara Glasco (Maps to the Stars) delivers an empathetic turn as Zooey, whose relationship with her father borders on estranged throughout the film, and Pruitt Taylor Vince – one of cinema’s most reliable and versatile character actors – brings some welcome hulking slasher movie menace as Ray. Only Shiri Appleby (Roswell) feels thankless here, her role possibly reduced by the paring away done to the film festival cut, leaving her little to do but scream and be concerned.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Devil’s Candy features a 1080p high-definition transfer that looks about as good as can get with this particular film. Shot in the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Candy is presented here in its 2.40:1 theatrical screening ratio, and the result is a solid but only occasionally vibrant picture quality that offers authentic texture and detail and a color scheme that favors bold reds and blues during the film’s more intense moments. Darker scenes look fine thanks to the lighting choices favored by cinematographer Simon Chapman (a holdover from Byrne’s The Loved Ones production team), but it’s best to view The Devil’s Candy at night for the action to be properly visible.

    English DTS-HD Master Audio options are offered in both 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, and though each track will suit your home watching requirements well depending on your set-up, the eerie sound design and metal-heavy soundtrack benefit the most from the 5.1 mix. These virtues are also on par with the spacious arrangement of the dialogue and the atmospheric score composed by Michael Yezerski (with Seattle metal band Sunn O))) adding some guitar-powered flavor in the finale). English subtitles have also been provided.

    Bonus features start off with an informative and laid-back commentary track from director Byrne that provides an adequate overview of the production and leaves room for discussion of the story’s influences, on-set problems, and more. The only behind-the-scenes footage on offer is a quick look at the creation of the digital fire FX for the violent finale (3 minutes). Byrne’s thematically-similar 2007 short film “Advantage Satan (11 minutes) makes a nice companion piece to The Devil’s Candy. Lastly, there’s a music video for Goya’s “Blackfire” (6 minutes) set to clips from the film, an art gallery (5 minutes), and the theatrical trailer (2 minutes). The Blu-ray also comes with reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    The Devil’s Candy is a slick, competent horror movie made with style and ambition by a clearly talented filmmaker. It has dread and atmosphere to spare, solid performances, and disturbing visuals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer its audience much in the way of ideas both original and intriguing, and a lack of character development (most likely a casualty of the ten minutes deleted from the film festival cut) leaves its cast little to work with to make their roles memorable. It’s a decent way to kill 80 minutes, made all the more sweeter by the excellent transfer and extra features on this Scream Factory Blu-ray release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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