The Devil's Candy Review
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Love Is Dead
by: Jerry Smith
Sean Byrne hit the horror genre hard with his cult classic film, THE LOVED ONES. A fun and energetic ride, that film established Byrne as a very unique voice and while the film itself suffered from a long delayed distribution issue, when it did arrive, genre fanatics loved it. Now with his followup, the heavy metal meets Satanic possession/home invasion film THE DEVIL'S CANDY hitting VOD/iTunes and limited theaters next month, I thought it would be a good time to talk to you readers about some of the themes found in the film, all of which come together to tell one of the best father/daughter tales in horror.
There's a part of each artist that yearns for that youthful approach to creating that causes a lot of people to be under the false assumption that we're all in denial regarding growing up and becoming "normal adults." Whether it's the art we created, or appearances or just the need for people to put human beings into a bubble of what it is to be an adult and what it is to have a family. I ran into this early on in my adult life when I had my first daughter. I was immediately expected to look a certain way, grow out of a lot of the music and films I had always been into and look a certain way, to help push the white picket fence, suit and tie life that is so force fed to kids growing up that it becomes a dream killer to any kid who might not just have dreams of their own, but also looks up to their artist parent.
In THE DEVIL'S CANDY, we're introduced to Jesse (Ethan Embry), a heavy metal-obsessed painter who is in a creative rut due to the need to paint pretty art for banks and so on to support his wife and daughter. While Jesse is still 100% who he's always been, with tattoos and long hair and wearing his favorite Bukowski quote on his shirt, his wife Astrid (Roswell's Shiri Appleby) is somewhat moving away from their rebellious past, all while their daughter Zooey is a full on Jesse mini-me, in the most adorable of ways. Obsessed with early Metallica and Flying V guitars, Zooey is an outsider who only needs one friend, her father. There's a heroic worship and a very heartfelt relationship between Jesse and Zooey, she loves her father and loves who he is. It's that acceptance between a child and their father that makes the film so special and their mutual love for all things metal is endearing, the bond they share regarding their adoration for Pantera and all other rockers is one of the many facets of their bond.
When the family moves into a house that was the scene of a double murder and supernatural, demonic forces begin to influence Jesse and his art, it begins to infiltrate the relationship between Jesse and Zooey, causing a wedge that prior to these Satanic happenings, never existed between the father and daughter. Typically reliable and always there for Zooey, Jesse begins to paint horrific images and is so caught up in the darkness that he misses picking the young girl up from school, putting her in danger due to a possessed murderer (and former occupant of the young family's house) becoming obsessed with Zooey and setting his sights on her. We know how much Zooey adores her father so to see the young girl so devastated by the fact that she, first the time, can't rely on him, it's heart wrenching. While Jesse tries to be the father he's always been, the dark presence threatens everything he loves, causing him to lose touch and possibly put his family in jeopardy. Any father who has had a hard time being both themselves and a responsible parent can relate, there can at times be such a struggle to maintain your artistic endeavors all while doing your best to not only be there for your kid but to show them that you're someone they can rely on. Though there's quite a bit more going on in THE DEVIL'S CANDY, it's that core relationship between Jesse and Zooey that provides the backbone and heart of the film and as the situation and danger escalates, we find ourselves asking "Will they get out of this and if so, will things ever be the same?" Jesse is a character that shows such a grounded and realistic portrayal of an artist father and it's that vulnerability in Embry's performance that really helps you as a viewer feel for Jesse, Zooey and Astrid as their family is constantly affected by evil, both in supernatural and human forms. The desire to overcome evil and to be there for each other is a strong one and the battle we see in THE DEVIL'S CANDY is one to root for, illustrating that the love between a parent and their child can be so strong and willful, that even the darkest of forces can't compete with that. Such a great example of that, one that should be required viewing for any horror-loving parent and their child.