Summer of Horror 2018: The Devil’s Candy The heavy metal horror movie without much heavy metal

The Devil’s Candy feels like a movie whose concept changed in the middle of production. The elevator pitch was most likely “Amityville Horror meets heavy metal”, and the opening credits, complete with that famous Judas Priest font, sells you on a fun horror romp saturated in face-melting guitar licks and thundering drums. But once the character introductions are out of the way, the heavy metal stuff fades way, way into the background, and ends up being of absolutely zero consequence to the story or even to the aesthetic. There’s a Flying V guitar acting as kind of a Chekov’s gun, but that’s about it.

And honestly, that’s probably for the better, because the sub-sub genre of heavy metal splatter horror isn’t one for which I’m particularly fond. I hated Some Kind of Hate, and thought Deathgasm was fun but juvenile. The Devil’s Candy doesn’t need the gimmick either. It’s not perfect, but there are enough moments of brilliance to recommend it on its own merits.

The story takes a LONG time for any notable events to occur. At first glance, the characters come off a little one-note and obvious, but they get more relatable as things go on. 90’s teen star Ethan Embry, looking a little too much like Matthew McConnaughey in True Detective, does a ton of acting with his eyes, while his teenage stepdaughter is somehow able to play an angsty metal-obsessed teen without treading into obnoxious. The mom as the primary breadwinner rounds out this family crew that, as stated, end up being likable enough that we care about their safety once the film finally builds to its incredibly tense climax.

I guess this is a demonic possession movie, but there’s no actual personified demon here. Instead, it’s more about the influence of the devil, acting through one deranged man. The entire film is building towards an inevitable collision between the family and this one wild-eyed agent of evil. Glimmers of directing brilliance are sprinkled around, recalling Kubrick at times in the use of slow motion and long, lingering zooms. However, too many plot threads remain forever dangled. The father and default main character (Embry) is continually hinted as being manipulated by the villainous presence in their home, but this doesn’t culminate in anything that impacts the plot. He also has several interactions with a vaguely malevolent art dealer which also don’t amount to anything more than suggestions. Is he also a demonic agent, or just a red herring? I’m not sure.

At a brisk 80 minutes there’s enough good stuff here to warrant a streaming recommendation. I appreciated that the level of gore never became exploitative, especially given that there are frequent “children in peril” scenes and I am now triggered by those. When you find out what “the devil’s candy” refers to… shudder.

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