The Devil’s Candy Review
Two men. One house. One inspiration. One truly unsettling story of madness and genius intertwining together in the darkest of ways. The Devil’s Candy tells the tale of one house’s former and current tenants battling madness and possibly possession. Former resident Ray Smilie has found himself neck deep in evil. The new buyers of his former home, the Hellman’s (nice name for a film like this) see their patriarch, Jesse, influenced by the same evil that has driven Ray to the brink of sanity. Throughout the film, the effects of demonic voices are shown to inspire great things in Jesse and Ray. However, in Ray’s case, those same voices also drive him to kill unless he drowns them out with his guitar. Ultimately, Ray gives in to the inner devils in one scene that is as beautifully crafted as it is unsettling.
Don’t be mistaken, however, Ray Smilie is not a purely evil character. Pruitt Taylor Vince’s portrayal of his character is more sympathetic than it is anything else. Even despite the horrible things Ray does, there’s a sense that the character doesn’t enjoy what he feels he is forced to do. Not until he is driven beyond the brink of his own better judgement and gives in to the voices of his unholy inner muse.
The other protagonist, Jesse Hellman, shows what Ray may have been many years before the start of the film. A normal man with an artistic side looking for inspiration to drive him to succeed in his passion. While Ray’s passion was music, Jesse’s is painting. We find Jesse at a point in his life, and career, where he is forced to paint things outside of his preference to survive. This is when he moves into a house in the Texas country to find his much-needed inspiration to paint his next great creation. It is in Ray’s former home that Jesse begins his descent into madness. At first, it seems Jesse is simply lost in the moment. Painting for hours at a time with no memory of it, only seeing the magnificent results. Soon, he the audience realizes that the same forces speaking to Ray are influencing Jesse as well. Before long, these moments of memory loss begin affecting his family and isolating him from them, especially his daughter Zooey.
The madness of Jesse and Ray comes to a bloody inferno when Ray choose Jesse’s daughter as his sacrifice to the Devil. In an ending that is violently unsettling and gloriously metal as fuck, we see one man give in to his demons and another conquer them for the sake of what is most important to him. However, the question remains… Were the voices all in their heads or was it really Satan influencing them to embrace their inner darkness.
The Bad Guy Take
It took me far too long to finally watch this movie. It’s sat on my NetFlix queue for at least a month before I kicked up this bad boy. I must say, I’m not at all disappointed in it. As usual, IFC Midnight presents a dark tale that is as thought provoking as it is visually appealing. In the case of The Devil’s Candy, it’s also aurally stunning. The use of heavy metal as a soundtrack and a very sparse score gave the film a very different, and welcome, ambience. Even the stereotypical Satanic imagery fit in and didn’t seem cheesy. In fact, the use of the cliché-as-fuck black goat was used to well that it’s appearance gave me chills. It’s not often that a cliché is used in a way that works, but somehow this flick nailed it.
The most important aspect of this movie is the sound. The voices that the main characters Ray and Jesse hear are so well mixed that it seems like they are whispering into your own ear rather than coming from the speakers. This added a whole new layer of spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing fear that I appreciated probably far more than I should. It also helped give an ambiguity to whether these men were truly insane or being whispered to by dark forces from the underworld. To add to the truly uneasy audio mix is the very sparingly used score. The times a score is used, it’s not as noticeable as it could be, but it adds to the emotion and fear of the scenes it’s used in. The other usage of music is heavy metal. The metal head in me had to throw up the horns for the first twenty minutes of the movie as well as the end credits (worth watching if you’re a classic Metallica fan).
The story itself is very well crafted overall in The Devil’s Candy. At times, it does get a little unclear what is going on, but not to the point where its incoherent. It does tread close to having a few plot holes. Luckily, nothing too glaring as to take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. I found myself too engrossed to dwell on the minor downfalls of the movie when they did pop up. Luckily, these flaws were rare enough to be easily missed unless you’re looking for something to be wrong.
The acting, especially, helps draw in the viewer in and keep them hooked. Ethan Embry is damn near unrecognizable as Jesse Hellman. His portrayal as a starving artist, metalhead, and father doing his best is believable. This combined with his appearance, the character felt like a real person rather than a character portrayed by an actor. Pruitt Taylor Vince, however, really shine as Ray Smilie. His performance walks the thin line between serial killer, victim, and mentally challenged to the point that he evokes sympathy. Until the end, however, when he turns the serial killer vibe up to eleven and sparks the true horror this story.
The ending is what ultimately makes this movie what it is. The journey through madness the two men go through culminates in a bloody showdown. The violence is stark and matter-of-fact, giving a more realistic and brutal feeling to the bloodshed on screen. The vibe of the last thirty minutes or so is incredible and simply must be seen so I don’t spoil things. Despite an end for one of the men, the last few minutes leave more questions than answers. Though not in a way that left me frustrated or wanting more. While it is short in comparison to some movies, ninety minutes was the perfect run time for this story. Any longer and it would have dragged on just enough to lose the pacing.
Overall, this isn’t the best horror movie I’ve seen, but it’s certainly not the worst. I’d definitely watch it again and I highly suggest anyone else to give it a shot. It’s not your typical haunted house or possession movie. It’s a film all on its own and, frankly, doesn’t need a genre to fit into. The Devil’s Candy is a story that will worm its way under your skin and into your mind. It might just stick with you after you watch it. If anything, watch this one for the cool music, wicked artwork, and the last thirty minutes.