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The Devil's Candy (2015)

The Devil's Candy (2015)

Rating: ***1/2

"The Devil's Candy" plays like a taut thriller with horror elements. That's a compliment. While it ramps up the terror late in the picture, and the religious symbolism can be picked out aplenty, the core of the film is centered around the anxiety of parenting. It just so happens things get a little messed up. 

Okay, things get very messed up. Using a soundtrack comprised mostly of metal and an aesthetic that makes you squirm in your seat, expect to hear comparisons to the style of Rob Zombie. Don't let that turn you off to "The Devil's Candy" if Zombie's overbearing style isn't your cup of tea; this is a much more restrained film. 

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"Candy" centers on a family: a mom, dad and daughter, who move into a house with a messed up past. Then the murders begin. Actually, the murders already started, but I wanted to work that turn of phrase into the review somewhere. The murderer in question, played with suitable weirdness by Pruitt Taylor Vince, is taking his orders from a lower power and director Sean Byrne plays up the symbolism throughout. 

Other plot points turn into loose ends because the film has you expecting every conversation to lead somewhere after how heavily the Heaven and Hell symbolism is played up. Conversations about anxiety over moving into a new home are mostly pointless because they aren't revisited; and while the added depth to the characters is nice, I can't help but feel we could have learned something more interesting.

That's a relatively small quibble in a horror film with a set of characters as well developed as the ones we get in "Candy," though. The heart of the film is the relationship between the father, Jesse, and the daughter, Zooey. As the Devil attempts to work through Jesse (I know, I know... it makes sense if you watch the movie) he gets the sense he can't protect his daughter anymore — and she knows it. It's powerful stuff that's handled very well by Byrne. 

"Candy" doesn't follow a typical horror film structure, either. There's no relief, instead opting for a a taught, 80-minute foray through the psyche of its characters. It works because of its brief runtime and as the pressure ramps up near the end it's nearly impossible to peel your eyes away from the screen. 

That's a huge compliment to pay to a film that runs very lean. It takes its concept and sprints with it all the way to the finish line; if there's one thing to say about "The Devil's Candy," it's that it knows exactly where it wants to go and how it wants to get there. It doesn't waste any time meandering. 

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