Monday, September 25, 2017

THE DEVIL'S CANDY (2015) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory/IFC Midnight
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 80 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Sean Byrne
Cast: Ethan Embry, Kiara Glasco, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Shiri Appleby, Tony Amendola

The Devil's Candy (2015) is the second film from Australian director Dean Byrne, who brought us the indie-horror The Loved Ones (2009), this follow-up pertains to a struggling painter-artists and righteous metal-head named Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry, Late Phases) who moves into a rural Texas home with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby, Curse II: The Bite) and rocking-teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco, Maps To The Stars). They buy the house for a song, with the usual movie trope that someone died in the home. It's implied by the realtor that the deaths were an accident followed by a mournful suicide, but a prologue tells us that there's more to the story, something Devil-ish might be festering in that home. 

They move in and almost immediately Jesse begins hearing voices inside the home, the voice become his artistic muse, as he begins painting nightmarish and demonic looking images, really frightful stuff, kids on fire and screaming in pain, way darker than his usual paintings, so much so that it alarms his wife. He becomes so entranced in the painterly process that he forgets to pick-up Zooey till hours after her school day ends, upsetting her quite a bit and causing a rift between the two, who were previously very tight. 

Not long after the disturbed son of the former occupants arrives on their doorstep, his name is Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince, Heavy), a troubled individual who hears voices of his own, he tries to friend Zooey but is chased off the property by Jesse who sees him for the threat he is. We see scenes of Ray trying to drown out these negative demonic voices with his Gibson Flying V Guitar with a Marshall amp cranked to ten, which seems to dampen the voices and the impulses they spur, but he always relents and gives into them. We already know he's capable of heinous acts, so we know he could be a very real threat to Zooey, only Jesse and his family are unaware just how much danger they're - until it might be too late. 

We basically have two story lines converging here, we have Ray and Jesse, two men hearing voices, both compelled to act in a certain way, in some way doing the Devil's bidding, or so it seems. At just barely eighty-minutes long things come to a head sooner than later, though the movie is a bit too short to really flesh out the characters a whole bunch, but there's a certain visual shorthand at play, and for the most part I found it enough to keep me plugged in. What a transformation Embry has gone through, I do not recall him being so chiseled, his body is a sinewy, tattooed sculpture of it's own, his bearded face and ragged hair made him almost unrecognizable, looking a bit like a metal Christ, which may or may not have been done with a purpose. I like his character, a family man that he loves his daughter and just happens to be a  metal-head. His daughter and him have some good bonding moments, throwing up devil-horn salutes to each other and rocking out in the car to Metal music, but his new muse threatens to destroy their bond, and it might possibly cost him his daughter's life. 

Pruitt Taylor Vince has played these sort of homicidal weirdos a few times before, he does it well with just a few words and some body language, those darting eyes, trying to fight the influence of what might be a Satanic influence... or is it just mental illness, or mental illness compounded by a satanic influence? Regardless, I love the heavy as fuck death-chord he's riffing on to drown out the voices! Kiara Glasco is great as the teen daughter, she's likable, not annoying, and you can see where she's coming from when she's angry at her father and has a naivety and a strength that comes through without feeling like acting. Shiri Appleby, who plays the straight-person here, as the sensible mom character is the glue that holds the a family unit together, but it's not a very showy performance. 

I do not think the movie completely answers the satanic versus mental-illness question but I like the ambitiousness of it, it's an idea you can chew on for a while and interpret in a few different ways, I'm still not settled on which path I'm following here, I feel it really can be seen in different ways.

The movie is a low-budget production but the tone and atmosphere bleeds through the budget, they don't overstep their limits, and the finale takes pace in an inferno, and everything looks tip-top as far as special effects and fire stunts go, a visually pleasing film, it doesn't ever feel low-rent. The movie is more a satanic psychological thriller than straight-up horror, there's loads of satanic imagery and an overwhelming sense of dread, Byrne did good work with The Devil's Candy, though in a way I wish it were fleshed out a bit more, but then again, how many times have I wished a film were shorter and more to the point?    

Audio/Video: The Devil's Candy (2015) arrives on Blu-ray through the Scream Factory/IFC Midnight distribution team-up, looking solid in 1080p HD framed in 2.40:1 the film is crisp and vibrant, colors are nicely saturated, though this is a mostly subdued looking film, lots of brown. Black levels are deep and inky, and skin tones look accurate. Audio comes by way of either English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround, the surround mix is solid, not a lot of spacial showing-off, but occasionally we get some surround activity in the rears and the music sounds brilliant, right from the opening featuring Metallica's version of Diamond Head's  "Am I Evil". This is a very metal-centric soundtrack with prime cuts from Metallica, Slayer, Pantera and Queens of the Stone Age, plus score from SunO))), if you're a dyed-in-the-wool metal fan this soundtrack will get you pumped. Optional English Subtitles are provided.

Extras include an insightful commentary from Bryne, a behind-the-scenes special effects featurette, a Goya music video, gallery, the theatrical trailer, and an 11-minute short film by Byrne featuring a teen couple trying to get some nookie on a tennis court only to have it ruined by some evil. Onto the packaging, he single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case with a sleeve of reversible artwork, including a cool illustration marred by no less than four review quotes - but still pretty cool. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Sean Byrne
- Behind-The-Scenes: Visual Effects (3 min) HD 
- Short Film: Advantage Satan (11 min) 
- Music Video: Goya “Backfire”(6 min) 
- Art Gallery  (3 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork 

The Devils Candy (2015) is a solid follow-up to to The Loved Ones (2009), taught and brisk slice of satanic cinema with very good performances across the board. If you're unsure about a blind buy this one is currently streaming on Netflix - but I'm here to say it's worth a buy!