Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 15 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out The Devil’s Candy. Let’s get to it:
Day 15 of 31: The Devil’s Candy (2015)
Director: Sean Byrne
Starring: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Kiara Glasco, Pruitt Taylor Vince
IMDb Trivia: Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is the track that kicks off the end credits, and Sean Byrne can’t thank the band enough. They watched and enjoyed an early cut of the film (“I was shitting myself”) and then offered the song at a very reasonable rate.
Plot: A struggling painter’s possessed by dark forces after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas, in this creepy haunted-house tale.
Review: So I’ve covered 14 movies so far this month and most of these I’ve just seen for the first time, but this one I watched back in 2017 when it first dropped and I distinctly remember two things about it. One was how absolutely amazing I thought it was and two, how surprised I was that it wasn’t getting more press.
The Devil’s Candy is a relatively short film (only about seventy minutes long) and it tells the story of struggling artist and father Jesse (Ethan Embry in his best role to date) his wife Astrid and their daughter Zooey. All three have just moved into their new home, a home that has a history of violence and death, a home where a man called Raymond Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) once lived. Smilie would play his guitar (or considering his music of choice is heavy metal, his axe) loudly to his mother’s disdain as he claimed the loud music drowned out “Him”. And as these four people collide and Jesse’s art changes from sweet and simple to dark and disturbing we the viewer begin to wonder if the same voices that spoke to Smilie are now reaching out to Jesse.
This movie, simply put, blew me away with its gorgeous cinematography, tight pace and great editing. The performances are also solid with Ethan Embry playing against type as I only knew him prior to this in roles such as his stoner guy in Empire Records or his love-sick persona in Can’t Hardly Wait (I did see him play an abusive husband in a Master’s of Horror episode, but his screen time was limited in it) . His physicality is a big part of his role here as he shredded beyond belief and tends to paint shirtless and even sans pants (not that I’m complaining). But it doesn’t come across as gratuitous, rather we have a movie that explores the more masculine side of the family dynamic where a man is struggling with his own fears of being able to provide for and protect his family. It’s not something we see a lot of in horror movies as in most cases of an obsessive father/husband they’re depicted as the ones to be wary of (The Shining comes to mind). But Embry does a wonderful job of portraying a man who is literally fighting his demons while still very much loving and caring for his family.
Another standout performance here is that of character actor aficionado Pruitt Taylor Vince. You may not recognise the name but I’m one hundred percent sure you’ll know the face. His roles in movies like Identity and Constantine or his television appearances in The X-Files and The Mentalist (the latter being the most normal character I’ve ever seen from him) have made his face a household one, and his take on Ray Smilie is downright chilling. Every moment he’s onscreen makes you nervous for the folks in his orbit, and even without all the supernatural elements this character straight up works as I could totally picture someone like this being talked about on the news or a true crime podcast.
Heavy metal music plays a large part in this movie; it’s not something I’ve ever listened to but you can tell the director is a true fan. All three family members love metal and that love of Slayer, Metallica et cetera has only bonded them closer. The music and rock aesthetic was surprisingly heartfelt and played against your typical horror tropes where films from the 70s and 80s would’ve depicted it and the people who enjoy this type of music to be Satanic, and it was refreshing to see the other side of this coin. Nontraditional families can be loving too and this is just one of the ways Sean Byrne takes your standard horror clichés and turns them on its head here.
Now I don’t want to leave you thinking this is just a psychological thriller where we sit and watch a man deteriorate into insanity. The Devil’s Candy delivers on the horror imagery as well and the final act does a 180 in terms of tone. It’s like you’re at a concert and that one song that everyone loves comes on and the entire stadium goes berserk. It may come across as ridiculous to some but it worked for me especially considering the bulk of this movie is so solid I couldn’t care less if they decided to dive head first into the more supernatural elements and leave subtlety behind.
This is the kind of movie that leaves an impact long after the credits have rolled and makes you call up all your horror-loving friends to share the good news. So from one horror-loving friend to another, “You really need to check out a movie called The Devil’s Candy.” “It’s fantastic!”
Sommer’s Score: 8 out of 10
You can check out Part 14 of my 31 Days List and my review of The Hallow below along with my review of haunted house flick The Banishing:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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