Despite my life-long obsession with horror movies, it is rare for me to find one that I actually like. I spend more time than I care to admit scrolling through Netflix, trying to find one last hidden gem. Maybe my standards are too high, or maybe most horror movies are marketed to teenage boys who just want to see gore. Whatever the reason, I am always super excited when I watch a horror movie that doesn't have me turning it off after half an hour of half watching it while I play a game on my cell phone.
"The Devil's Candy" is one of those rare pleasant surprises. Written and directed by Sean Byrne, director of "The Loved Ones," "The Devil's Candy" has a retro, "Satanic Panic" vibe and a Heavy Metal leitmotif which feel familiar to the '70s/'80s horror fan, yet still manages to be current. The protagonist is the often underrated Ethan Embry (looking like a rock 'n' roll Jesus), his soulful eyes seeming to express every passing thought of subtext.
He plays an artist and father who is really into Heavy Metal music. He and his wife (Shiri Appleby) get the standard "too good to be true" deal on a gorgeous house in the middle of nowhere (see "The Amityville Horror"). The real estate agent dutifully explains to the couple that he is legally obligated to inform them that there has been a death on the premises. He tells them a rather touching story of a sweet, old lady falling down the stairs and a husband who couldn't live without her; in a case of dramatic irony, we already know that is not quite the case.
The couple and their adorable, purple-haired teen-aged daughter (Kiara Glasco) move into their beautiful, suspiciously affordable new home. The family unwittingly captures the attention of a former resident of the house and son of the deceased couple (the always-creepy Pruitt Taylor Vince) who has less than pure motives for befriending the little girl.
Meanwhile, Embry's character begins to change (see "The Amityville Horror"). He begins to work feverishly, locked away in his studio, missing obligations. His artwork takes a dark turn, as he obsessively paints disturbing images of children being feasted upon by demons. Is the family in danger from the creepy son of the deceased former owners, or is the danger closer to home, in the form of the formerly devoted father, who seems to be changing before his helpless family's eyes. My lips are sealed, but I will say that the last half hour is so suspenseful that you might find fingernail marks on the inside of your palms from clenching your fists.
In comparing "The Devil's Candy" to "The Amityville Horror," I am not implying that "The Devil's Candy" is derivative; if it is, it's derivative in the best ways. It uses familiar tropes that horror fans like to see and puts a fresh spin on them, delivering up an offering that feels like home to those of us who are sick of torture porn and found-footage films.