The Devil's Candy
Six years ago, Tasmanian writer/director Sean Byrne thoroughly freaked out audiences with his horrific yet comical Melbourne made slasher film The Loved Ones (2009) – a story about a psychotic girl who always gets what she wants, even if that means lobotomising boys to like her. What made Byrne’s debut feature stand out from the sea of predictable horrors, was its Australiana self deprecating humour, not too dissimilar to Two Hands, and his knowledge and playfulness of the genre.
Since The Loved Ones, which was well received by indie audiences, Bryne found it hard navigating the film industry to secure budgets, so his monster in the house has lay dormant until now, with the release of his US produced The Devil’s Candy (2015).
The story follows heavy metal hero Jesse (Ethan Embry) who moves into a house in Texas with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), but are stalked by a possessed man baby named Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince). On paper, the set up is that of a typical horror, and in most ways it is, however, it keeps just enough up its sleeve to breath new life into the genre.
It achieves this by mashing two horror genre types together – a classic religious satanic panic, exploring how satanic forces deliver an explanation for all the evil doings that happen in our world; spliced with a serial killer thriller, to base the story in reality, looking inwards at the monsters within us, rather than told through the guise of unbelievable otherworldly monsters. Combining the two together makes it feel as if hell could be wreaking havoc on earth as I write.
The art direction is overtly symbolic, shots layered with whites, blacks, and most significantly reds, to signify Satan’s red right hands, carrying out his demonic dirty work. One shot in particular stood out, as Jesse looked through the red stained glass cross of his front door at villain Ray, who transitioned from his human form into a red Satanic blob. Is this Satan showing his true form?
Metal music played a pivotal role in the construction of the film. It provided the serious satanic theme, in the same way it frightened Christian groups who thought Satan communicated through metal music. This was evident with the use of Sun O)))’s low pitched droning metal, and their ommm-inous vocals as the voice of Satan, rattling inside the possessed character’s heads. The soundtrack is a metalhead's wet dream, including Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, and Cavalera Conspiracy.
I know the film’s intention was to be taken seriously, most likely to chase US audiences and US dollars, but personally, I feel this film is a step back from The Loved Ones. I wonder how this film would've turned out if it was made and set in Australia, rather than US produced and set in Texas. Would it have maintained the hapless Aussie charm that The Loved Ones had?
The Devil’s Candy is a horror for metal lovers and US audiences. It’s worth a watch, but am definitely keen to see what Sean does next. Somebody give this man some money.
BY LEE SPENCER-MICHAELSEN