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CANDY CORN (2019)

Directed by Josh Hasty
Written by Josh Hasty
Starring P.J. Soles, Tony Todd, Courtney Gains, Pancho Moler, Sky Elobar, Jaime Gallagher, Caleb Thomas, Matt O’Neill, Madison Russ, Lovlee Carroll, Jimothy Beckholt, Cy Creamer, Justin Mabry, Patrick Ryan, Nick Ford, Nate Chaney, Aaron Lewis, Robert Gerding, Ben Grimm-Wilson
Find out more about this film here

Filmmaker Josh Hasty tries to introduce us to a new Halloween horror with CANDY CORN.

When a troubled teen named Jacob Adkins (Nate Chaney) is tortured and nearly killed by a group of bullies, the carnival he works at revives him and helps him enact vengeance upon those who have done him dirty. Meanwhile, a small town sheriff (CHILDREN OF THE CORN’s Courtney Gains) attempts to track down the killer before all of the bullies end up dead.

Hasty does a better job of establishing a Halloween atmosphere than most of the HALLOWEEN movies. Simply capturing the golden, sundown haze is not a difficult thing to do, but I’m surprised how often “autumn set” films simply aren’t able to capture it. Hasty gives everything a chilly yet homey small town vibe by focusing on some wonderful little details like rotting pumpkins, flowing fields, and suburban streets. This makes for a fantastic setting for a horror film.

The story itself isn’t necessarily new. Bullied kid gets hurt or killed and comes back for vengeance against those who did it. What makes things fun are the carnival aspects with 31/THREE FROM HELL’s Pancho Moler leading the pack as Dr. Death (the ringmaster and carnival barker). The backstage scenes are reminiscent of FREAKS and Hasty does a great job of giving everyone a sleazy, yet mystical vibe.

As atmospheric as CANDY CORN is, I think it feels like it would have been a better short film. The story becomes repetitive after a while and it feels as if the movie pads itself with unnecessary discourse and characters running around town and back and forth for no reason. It’s great to see Courtney Gains and P.J. Soles get significant parts in a film, but you’ve got to give them something to do. It’s fun to see Gains in the police station chit-chatting with Soles, who plays his co-worker. But this scene is revisited numerous times in the film. It’s obvious the filmmaker wanted to give these two actors as many scenes as possible, but in the end, these scenes feel more like padding than something necessary to the plot.

CANDY CORN is a fun throwback slasher with some nice nods and winks to 80’s horror. I’s got some nice cameos and a decent amount of gore and mayhem. While the film sags in the story areas, it makes up for it in a palpable spooky atmosphere. Hasty has the right kind of love for retro-horror and I hope we see more of it.