Metal Tinged Horrors are Rarely as Sweet as The Devil’s Candy
To say that heavy metal has had a tough time being properly represented in movies would be…generous. Like most underground or outsider cultures, to the greater world metal can be reduced to its worst aspects, mere stereotypes to be played for laughs. Even in some of metal’s finer, and freakishly accurate Hollywood moments (this character from Extract is someone we all know) the characters are merely “the metalhead.” Rarely is their character given more depth than that, and even more rarely is such a character allowed to be the focus of the film. This one of many things that makes The Devil’s Candy such a treat.
For the uninitiated, The Devil’s Candy focuses on the family of Jesse Hellman. The Hellmans get a deal on a house that’s too good to pass up, but as always there is a catch. It’s a rather large catch, too, as a family was murdered inside the house. The Hellmans think nothing of it…until Jesse starts having satanic visions, the son of said family starts showing up around the house, and he takes up a fascination with Jesse’s daughter. The setup is reminiscent of the Satanic Panic era of films, but here it’s modernized and played straight. There are no Satanic cult rituals or over the top blood sacrifices being made, but rather the kind of “satanic possession” that a killer may say drove them in real life. For a movie about Satan’s bidding it’s all very grounded and all the more haunting for it.
As I hinted earlier, Jesse is a metalhead. In fact it isn’t only him: his daughter, Zooey, is also into heavy music, and it routinely acts as a point of bonding between the two. It isn’t your typical depiction of two heshers who live and die by the sword though. Jesse and Zooey are real characters that love each other, but they’re trying to work out their issues with one another. Jesse isn’t the macho meathead we’ve come to expect, but rather a genuinely caring father figure. He paints butterflies to take care of his family and is never too macho to admit when he’s wrong and apologize for it. Zooey loves talking to her father about music, but the neglect and pain she feels when he gets too wrapped up in work and forgets to pick her up from school is palpable. These are genuine and flawed characters…they just happen to like heavy metal and wear black (OMG IT’S LIKE YOU OR ME).
There are plenty of other little nuggets tucked away for observant metal fiends. As we all tend to do for some reason, you will pay attention to every shirt every character wears and judge accordingly. Select metal songs play throughout and are even integral to some scenes (the use of a particular Metallica song will either feel inspired or on the nose depending on your taste). Then, of course, there are the glorious band and concert posters littered throughout the house. You could spend 20 minutes picking apart every poster hung in Zooey’s room in one scene alone. It all tilts more mainstream than not, but for a movie that gets so much right I’m not going to complain too much about using a Ghost poster instead of an Obliteration poster.
I’ve mainly focused on the metal aspects of this movie more so than how the actual movie is, and you’ll have to forgive me for doing so on a metal blog, but let me assure that metal bias aside the film is great. The Hellmans are likable and easy to root for, Pruitt Taylor Vince offers an incredibly creepy turn as the haunted Ray Smile, and director Sean Byrne adds a filthy flair to everything that makes it hard to take your eyes off of it. At an incredibly brisk 79 minutes the film does feel a bit too lean. While you get a great sense of the characters and atmosphere, another 20 minutes or so would have offered plenty of more time with them as well as several more opportunities to ramp up the tension before the bananas finale. Oh what a cruel twist to be complaining about something being too brief.
Minor quibbles aside, The Devil’s Candy is a damn fine time. It’s taut, tense, haunting, and just a little funny. We, as metalheads, could easily view this as a great heavy metal horror movie, but that would be doing it as much of a disservice as the concept of “the stereotypical metalhead” character. The Devil’s Candy is a great movie… it just happens to like metal and wear black.
The Devil’s Candy is available to rent via iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and probably one thousand other streaming services.