New on DVD/BluRay from IFC Midnight/The Shout Factory!
Directed by Sean Byrne
Written by Sean Byrne
Starring Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco, Tony Amendola, Arthur Dale, Jack Dullnig, Shiela Bailey Lucas, Marco Perella, Richard Rollin, Jamie Tisdale
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Assaulting both the ears and the eyes with imagery and sounds out of the most depraved and diabolical nightmares, Sean Byrne’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY is an absolute treasure trove of scares!
Ethan Embry plays painter Jesse, husband to Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and cool father to Zooey (Kiara Glasco). When they move into a new home, Jesse begins hearing voices while he paints, the same type of voices the previous owner Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) used to hear while living in the house before he killed his elderly mother and father. Haunted by these voices and inspired to take a new dark path with his artwork, Jesse becomes obsessed, feeling the dark inspiration flow through him like a conduit in his painting. But while Jesse is being seduced by the voices, Ray returns home and that means terrible things for his family.
This is a fantastic film. Start to finish, this is an assault on the eyes and ears with all sorts of sights and sounds I haven’t seen or heard before. Director Sean Byrne (who burst on the scene with the fantastic THE LOVED ONES) delivers a film that really does take you to new and frightening places. Be they faint satanic voices muttering in the background or Ray banging away at his guitar to drown them out, this is a film to be heard loud. The hard rock influences, be they the metal Jesse listens to while painting or the audio assault Ray uses to keep the voices away is ever present here and done so in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy as in metal films like TRICK OR TREAT.
The thing is, this film uses a well worn motif of a new family moving into a new house. Next to death and being fired, I know moving is one of the biggest stressors to a person. I moved five years ago and vowed not to do it again for a while simply because it was so hard to upearth everything and put it back into order somewhere else. Maybe that’s why so many films are about this weird process. Still, THE DEVIL’S CANDY is interesting that it chooses such a familiar path, yet it never feels stale.
This is mainly because of Ethan Embry is absolutely fantastic as the lead here. The actor has had a comeback of sorts with LATE PHASES, CHEAP THRILLS, THE WALKING DEAD, and that car commercial where he is pulling a Clark Griswald. Here he proves that he can be a solid lead, playing a flawed but absolutely likable person who definitely cares deeply about his family. Through Embry’s puppy dog eyes, even covered in stubble, tattoos, and paint, he shows how much he loves his family which proves to be the beating heart of this film and makes you follow it down its treacherous path.
Pruitt Taylor Vince, who previously has only appeared as the weirdo in snippets in films is rock solid with this much more substantial role as Ray. His tortured performance as a man tormented by these voices all his life and is now on the breaking point when a new family moves into the only place he calls home is simply astounding. Vince delivers lines that are bone-chilling here and like Embry, hopefully this highlight of his talents will lead to more substantial roles of this kind. The rest of the cast is amazing as well, with Kiara Glasco delivering a really amazing turn as Zooey, Jesse’s rocker daughter. She is a young actress that will definitely go far and we will hear a lot about her in the coming years, I’m sure as her soulful performance of a youth trying to fit in despite her rebellious looks is layered and well done.
THE DEVIL’S CANDY is most astounding because this isn’t very much a ghost story as much as it is about flawed and over-stressed minds pushed to the breaking point. Ray believes he hears the devil, but we don’t see it. So those looking for a red painted horned guy are going to be disappointed. This is a film about the horrors unleashed from sick and obsessed minds, a much scarier version of horror than a ghost or monster story. THE DEVIL’S CANDY really taps into the dank and dark places inspiration often comes from and splashes it all over the screen. It captures the sometimes ugliness of the artistic process and of the human soul like few other films I’ve seen. I highly recommend THE DEVIL’S CANDY, it’s gorgeous and grotesque, poetic and unnerving, terrifically acted and splendidly directed. It’s an all around fantastic horror film that needs to be seen by any horror and metal fan.