The Devil's Candy
the devil's candy | sean byrne | ethan embry | shiri appleby | pruitt taylor vince | haunted house | devil | possession | possessed | united states | kiara glasco | shiela bailey lucas | richard rollin | demon | drama | thriller | tony amendola | leland orser | craig nigh
Film: The Devil’s Candy
Director: Sean Byrne
Writer: Sean Byrne
Starring: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby and Pruitt Taylor Vince
This film is one that I got turned on to thanks to podcasts. It was around the time that I started to get back into watching new horror movies and led me to start doing year-end lists. I’m now giving this a second viewing as it appeared on the Podcast Under the Stairs Summer Series for the 2010s. I was excited here as I’d see another movie from the writer/director, Sean Byrne, with The Loved Ones. The synopsis here is a struggling painter’s possessed by dark forces after him and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas, in this creepy haunted-house tale.
We begins with a Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) lying in bed. He hears creepy whispering and it wakes him up. In order to stop it, he plays his guitar really loud. His mother comes in, Pamela (Shiela Bailey Lucas), and tells him that he cannot play that loud that time of night. He ignores her and she tells him he will go back to the hospital. He chases her out of the room, hitting her with his guitar as she falls down the stairs. As this happens, the cross on his wall unhooks and hangs upside down. Her husband and Vince’s father, Walter (Richard Rollin), then opens the door and sees her dead on the floor.
We then shift to Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry). He is shirtless and painting. We learn that he loves metal music and is currently a commissioned painter. His daughter is Zooey (Kiara Glasco) and opens up the door to his studio. She mocks the subject of his work. He is painting butterflies and he tells her that it is for a bank so he has to do what he is asked. Her mother and Embry’s wife is Astrid (Shiri Appleby). She joins them and scolds Jesse for not showering.
They go to look at a house. It is the same one that Ray was living in. They look around and they love it. It has everything they need, including a large shed that could be a studio for Jesse. The realtor does reveal that there were two deaths in the house and he has to disclose that. He plays it off as the woman died of natural causes and the husband couldn’t cope. The realtor also slips that there are other potential buyers. This pushes the young family to purchase the house.
We then see Ray move into a motel. He tries to keep whatever talks to him away by playing his guitar, but someone complains and a deputy shows up. He tells him to keep it down to which Ray reluctantly agrees.
The new family settles in and Jesse takes Zooey to school. When he returns homes, he hears the same thing that Ray does. He goes up to Zooey’s room and takes down one of her posters. Behind it is a stain where the cross used to be hung. He then goes out to his studio and paints a black, upside cross. He gets so caught up in his work that he doesn’t hear Astrid come in. He also doesn’t remember painting it. This concerns her. On the following day, he scans and image on to a flash drive and takes it to a local studio by the name of Belial. He was rejected before and the proprietor doesn’t normally give people a second chance. The woman agrees to show him regardless.
The family is then visited by Ray and he wants to come home. Jesse is rude to him, telling him that he doesn’t live there anymore. Zooey is shocked by how he acts. The next morning Ray has left his guitar. She wants to keep it, but her father won’t allow it. He is supposed to pick her up later that day from school, but he gets caught up in his next painting and forgets.
No longer with his guitar to stop whatever is talking to him, Ray kills a little boy. He buries it on the land that used to belong to his parents. He also sets his sights on Zooey. The voice tells him to kill her, but he refuses. He believes her to be the sweetest candy. He pays them another visit that changes everything for the family.
That is going to be where I’ll leave my recap for this movie. Where I want to start with breaking this down is that we have such an interesting idea here. I’m not going to pretend like it is completely new, but I like the take we are getting with it. Where I should start is how things get introduced to us in the movie. Ray is a character we learn was locked away for 20 years in a mental hospital. He killed a child when he was a child. The night that he killed his mother and father, she knew that he wasn’t ready to be out. The logical answer here is mental illness, but as we go on, this is more of a different take on the possession film. Ray doesn’t want to do this, but he is driven to do it. The only thing that keeps the voice at bay for him is playing his guitar loud.
Which is where I want to shift next, this demon almost seems it encourages art. It doesn’t have one form there either. Jesse asks the police if they know why Ray did what he did in the past and the explanation they give was that ‘the devil told him to’. I’ve said what Ray does to keep from killing, but Jesse is inspired to do dark art. The paintings he does look amazing to the point that I want to seek out this artist to buy one. I’m not sure my wife would appreciate it though. Leonard (Tony Amendola) is the art dealer Jesse seeks out and it almost seems like he is in league with the Devil as well with how events play out. There are a lot of references from the name of the studio being Belial and Jesse’s last name is Hellman.
Another big portion of this movie is the soundtrack. We have just a bunch of metal songs and I think that fits the vibe so well. Ray is playing rifts that would fit into the music. Jesse and Zooey are both metal-heads. This isn’t my type of music per say, but I love what they do here. Going along with this, the sound design is amazing. The whispering in tongues is creepy. It is even used strategically to get louder at times and this all worked for me.
From here, I think the next thing I need to go would be the acting. Embry is great as our lead here. What I like about him is that he’s struggling. He wants to do right by his family, but he has a profession that is a bit more volatile. When he gets inspired by the entity, he is on the cusp of fame. He has to choose between that and his family which is an interesting commentary. To be the mirror of him dealing with the evil is Vince. He does so well in this type of role. I love him as this imposing entity who has succumbed and it is taking lives now. Appleby is great as the rock of the Hellman family. Even though she doesn’t fit in per say, she still does. Glasco is great as their daughter. I love seeing the trauma that she deals with as it feels real. Amendola is good as art dealer and I like Leland Orser appearing as a preacher on television. I’d say overall the acting is good.
So then the last thing to go into would be the effects and cinematography. For the former, I think the practical effects we get look good. The blood has a good color. I did want to shift over to the cinematography here. I love the editing that is done showing the duality of these two haunted characters in Jesse and Ray. They sync up him painting this horrible painting that involves the dead children and even Zooey burning with Ray murdering someone. It is great. I hate to go negative, but the fire in this movie is CGI and it doesn’t look good. That is the only negative I have here.
In conclusion, I loved this movie the first time that I saw it and it held up for me. We have an interesting duality here of the Hellman family, especially Jesse, with Ray. This take on the haunted house film is quite interesting to me. We have good references with metal music and satanic lore. If there is an issue with the story, it would be with the timeline of things being off. The acting though is good across the board. The practical effects, cinematography, editing and sound design are all good. The only issue is with the CGI. Regardless there, this is good movie that is bordering on great. I’d recommend this one to horror and non-horror fans alike.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10