THE DEVIL'S CANDY [Mayhem / Celluloid Screams Festival]

PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

Six years after exploding onto the international horror scene with The Loved Ones, Australian director Sean Byrne returns with this heavy-metal inspired tale that combines possession, haunted houses and serial killers. Struggling painter Jesse Hellman (played by Cheap Thrills’ Ethan Embry) moves his family into a rural Texan pile with dreams of a better life, unaware that the house they have just bought is the site of Satanic influence and child murder. When the former occupier Ray Smiley (Taylor Vince) returns ‘home’ one night to find the family firmly ensconced in their new abode, he sets his sights instead on their metal-head daughter, Zooey (Glasco), as his next sacrifice to the dark lord. Beset by disturbing visions, Jesse finds himself trying to save his own sanity while preventing his daughter from becoming the titular ‘devil’s candy’.

At heart, despite its heavy metal trimmings, Byrne’s first American movie is a fairly – dare we say it - conservative scare show. Jesse may be a heavy metal dad, but he’s otherwise as conventional as any Stephen King hero. A normal family guy trying to do his best for his wife and kids but beset by unspeakable horrors that are resolutely Other. There are token shades of The Amityville Horror as Jesse finds his mental state deteriorating as a result of the house’s malefic influence, turning his butterfly canvases into Hieronymus Bosch depictions of purgatory (a rather hackneyed device, that); but Byrne refrains from casting any real doubts on our hero’s inherent goodness, any genuine aspersions on his character. He’s no Jack Nicholson in The Shining, doing battle with the darkness within, and we are never really led to think he might do anything awful to his family. Instead, the only truly bad guy in the film is Taylor Vince; and so The Devil’s Candy ends up playing out a fairly run-of-the-mill home invasion scenario as the good family battle the evil child killer doing Satan’s bidding.

There’s a lot of Christian good vs. evil symbolism in the film, pitted against metal music: crucifix versus the Gibson Flying V, for example; and for the most part we’re not really sure whose side Byrne is really on. After all, Smiley likes nothing more than to play guitar with the volume turned up to eleven, which must surely mean it’s a conduit for the devil. Having said that, Jesse does ultimately find vindication through his axe, which must also mean metal is a force for good!

Either way, The Devil’s Candy is enjoyable hokum; a mildly effective horror ride, but – it has to be said – somewhat tame in comparison to The Loved Ones.

THE DEVIL’S CANDY (CELLULOID SCREAMS/MAYHEM FILM FESTIVAL) / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: SEAN BYRNE / STARRING: ETHAN EMBRY, SHIRI APPLEBY, KIARA GLASCO, PRUITT TAYLOR VINCE / RELEASE DATE: TBA

Expected Rating: 8/10
Actual: 
 


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