Metal music, wet paint, and family are the passions of Jesse, a struggling painter who lives a happy life with his wife, Astrid, and their preteen daughter, Zooey. And things look even brighter when Jesse and Astrid are able to put in a bid on their dream home - a huge property in rural Texas with a barn big enough for a proper art studio - after the price is driven down due to the home's mysterious past. After the trio moves in, Jesse's work starts taking on a new, considerably darker flavour - and things get even more ominous when Ray, the hulking, clearly unbalanced son of the deceased former owners, appears on the doorstep one night, clutching a red electric guitar and asking to "return home." It soon becomes clear that Ray and Jesse are both being influenced by the same satanic forces, and that Jesse's family won't be safe until they find a way to quiet the Devil himself.
Though it was picked up at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015, The Devil’s Candy actually took another two years before it was released in March of 2017. An amusing character actor I have liked for quite some time, Ethan Embry, plays Jessie Hellman, a rockin’ rollin’ painter who convinces his family to buy a house that has a deadly past and, of course, horror ensues. Sounds like another rote formulaic horror movie, doesn’t it? Yet, despite the conventional setup, this production sets itself apart with its characterization and style, and sometimes that is enough to carry a viewer to the finish line.
Besides being a tad bit of an eccentric (like most creative types are), Jessie is a great husband to his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and father to his daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). In fact, I actually enjoyed the family dynamic here. Astrid loves her husband, but he lives a life that is very much centered on his own needs as a freelance painter; even though he has the type of relationship with Zooey that every mother wants to see with her family, she wishes he taught their daughter to be more of a worker bee than he is. Being a creative type that tends to delve deep into his work myself, this was a relatable family dynamic for me and one that I instantly warmed up to.
As Jessie spends more and more time in the house, his paintings take on a new form and become a lot more violent and darker, which actually attracts new attention to his work, but he starts pulling further away from the family he loves. It’s an interesting dynamic to think about: is Jessie being possessed by the house to create the paintings, or is he feeling the pressure from his new investors? The paintings themselves also provide a unique sense of style for the film as we watch them being painted that sets this film apart. Add in a cool as hell metal soundtrack to jam out to, and how it is integrated into the film itself, and you end up with a rockin’ film with its own unique pizazz to it.
The end of the film, unfortunately, left me a bit cold; a few hanging storylines were either unresolved or resolved way too easily. As the film wrapped up, I definitely got the sense that certain plot developments happened solely for the good of the characters and to add to the feeling of suspense, not to help everything come together in the end. Regardless, I very much enjoyed this stylish ride that walks that fine line between style and character quite expertly.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Shout! Factory brings The Devil’s Candy to Blu-ray with a hardcover keepcase that has a little something extra than most. We are presented with rockin’ new cover art, while the inside features flip cover art that features the original cover art from the theatrical poster. Unfortunately, we are only given a BD-50 Blu-ray with no DVD copy, or Digital Copy to speak of. There are a few skippable trailers before being brought to a still image main menu that lets us navigate from there.
The Devil’s Candy haunts its way onto Blu-ray with a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encode that is a fair representation of the film itself. Production details are sparse, but this appears to be shot on film and it definitely shows. This film has a particularly stark, rich color palette that I normally associate with film, which is actually a positive here, providing some striking imagery with very bold and saturated colors. The scenes of Jessie painting definitely display this the best, while also showcasing some great dimensionality as he pops out of his painting in the background. These scenes are actually where this transfer is at its strongest, providing a sense of dread that elevates the material.
As far as black levels go, for the most part they fare quite well actually. This is a very dark film with deep blacks, but other than a few brief instances, they never crush the overall presentation. I did notice some banding in a few of those darker scenes, specifically toward the end of the film. Overall, with the budget that this film had, and the harsher color palette of the latter half of the film, I expected to see a whole lot more banding, and even some halo effects. However, this transfer remains strong throughout and a true testament that you can be a low budget film and still put out a solid transfer with a bolder color palette.
Shout! Factory rocks the house with The Devil’s Candy on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that fares quite well. The first thing you notice is the rock score which is translated masterfully in full 5.1 with the surrounds kicking as well. Even when our baddy is shredding on his electric guitar it echoes throughout the sound field. The LFE track actually gets a heavy work out as well between the score and action that happens toward the latter half of the film. There aren’t even a lot of gotcha jump scares, but when they occur, they hit with a startling bang due to a track that can be quite aggressive when it wants to be. A big part of the style of The Devil’s Candy is its soundtrack, and since it is represented so well, it makes this mix essential to the viewing of this film. Since they nail, that we are given a hefty audio mix that is a hard hitter when it wants to be.
Commentary with Director Sean Byrne – I normally don’t go for solo audio tracks, but Byrne has quite a bit of information packed into this commentary. It is interesting to hear how he created the imagery and how this film came to be.
Behind the Scenes: Visual Effects (HD 3:29) – There aren’t a whole hell of a lot of visual effects in this film, but its biggest has to be the fire at the end of the film; even though the flames looked artificial and took me out of the film, this feature focuses on the creation of that effect.
Advantage Satin Short Film (HD 10:53) – A short film made by Byrne that displays his talent for visual imagery, and prepared him for this film.
Music Video (HD5:43)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:14)
The Devil’s Candy gave me everything I expect from a horror flick. They take a typical horror trope (in this case, a house that possesses people) and put a bold spin on the material, making it stand out from the rest. There aren’t even a lot of kills here. In fact, I can count them all on one hand. But that isn’t what horror is about. Horror for me is evoking a mood. And The Devil’s Candy definitely evokes a forbidding mood of dread of the unknown, as we watch this family that we care about on a downward spiral. Even though the end reveal isn’t as satisfying as it should be, this is still a satisfying film. Add that to a solid Blu-ray package and what we are left with is a recommendable release.