After buying their dream house in Texas, The Hellmans, a painter, his wife, and their daughter, must face human and supernatural threats. As the father finds an incredible muse and must paint, his daughter and wife deal with lurking dangers.
Written and directed by Sean Byrne, The Devil’s Candy is a strong follow up to his debut feature The Loved Ones, showing that his talent was not fluke and showing that the man can craft a good horror story with truly creepy and even scary elements. Here he creates an interesting family who is traditional in one way and not in others; they are a cool, artsy family with a love to heavy metal. Their differences set them apart from the usual cinematic families who encounter evil in their new homes. Also, the way the evil comes into their lives is original and works well in the film’s context. His characters work well together, giving them more to care about, more to worry about, more to lose. His writing and directing create a film with a family the viewer can identify with and care for. Also, his human antagonist is one that has presence, who oozes creepiness while playing in the potential supernatural angles.
The cast chosen for this is fantastic with Ethan Embry in the lead, giving an inspired performance in which he is almost unrecognizable at first. This is great acting done with passion, something that adds to his character and those around him. Playing his wife is Shiri Appleby who gets much less screen time but does the most of it and gives a good performance. As their daughter Zooey, Kiara Glasco gives teen angst with a touch of sadness and a strong will to survive. Her performance gets more and more involved as the film advances. Giving an intense, involved performance is Pruitt Taylor Vince as Ray Smilie, a man who clearly has some sort of issues, who he plays with good, subtle nuances and a strong grasp of what gives people chills when meeting someone who is not quite right. These strong performances help the story move along and create even more atmosphere and connections between the different characters as well as with what is going on with each of them.
The Devil’s Candy is one of those films that proves that special effects galore are not something that is necessary. Here they are minimal with practical effects by Bob Trevino and visual effects under the supervision of John H. Han that are well done and show plenty of talent. The film’s scares come from the aforementioned performances and ambiance. The latter is created with the effects, editing, the cinematography, and the music amongst others. The cinematography by Simon Chapman creates a frame for the story with some fantastic images, including one that has been doing the rounds online, where the lead is painting and in his creative vibe. The film and its images show the creative process in a light that makes it both interesting and look realistic for some artists.
Also needing a mention, a paragraph of its own even, if the beautifully dark art seen in Jesse Hellman’s paintings once the family moves in to their new house. These paintings are stunning and bring the viewer in, keeping the attention while other things are going on. Hellman’s creations are a character of their own. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a credit to them on IMDB or anywhere a search could give. The poster artist who has done more than one of the film’s marketing posters/cover artworks, Ken Taylor, also created great work that represents the film beautifully.
The Devil’s Candy is a very strong follow up to a strong first feature and makes Sean Byrne a writer/director to keep an eye on and look out for. Ethan Embry’s performance as well as Pruitt Taylor Vince’s performance are two of those performances that will make viewers come back to the film again and again. The film is great and done with a boatload of talent, bringing the scares in a creeping in way that builds things up at a steady pace and makes the film stand out in terms of delivering on its promises without a ton of blood or gore or cheap jump scares.
Coming to VOD on March 17th.