Late in the festival, I caught Tasmanian director Sean Byrne's newest film, The Devil's Candy about a painter battling Satanic forces after moving into a new home with his family. Byrne burst onto the scene in 2009 with The Loved Ones, which I liked, but did not adore as many did. However, I was still very much interested in seeing what he had come up with after six years in the indie film development trenches.
I liked The Devil's Candy quite a bit. Byrne's sophomore effort had personality, a thing that was lacking from some of this year's Midnight entries. More than that though, it had not only a coherent narrative, but also an organic one. Aided by his considerable visual flair, Byrne established the family unit early and made us actually care when the devil came calling.
This, of course, succeeded due to the well chosen cast. Ethan Embry gives perhaps his best performance here and looks like he's probably in the best shape of his life. It's been a long and winding road for Embry, whose gone from embattled goof (Can't Hardly Wait, Empire Records) to creepy psycho (Vacancy, TV's Masters of Horror) and has now reached the role of loving father. In the role of antagonist, character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince does what he does best as the twitchy Satanic sycophant.
|Ethan Embry as Jesse in The Devil's Candy.|
Colour was a very important part of The Loved Ones and it was carried over into this film in the form of the paintings created by Embry's character, Jesse. The large mural he creates in the film was rather striking and reminded me of the old X-Files episode Unruhe, coincidentally also starring Taylor Vince. I would not be surprised if it was an influence. In addition to colour, Byrne used metal music to create the underlying tone to the film. It not only fits the characters of Jesse and his daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), but also the preconceived notions we have about Satanism.
I'd say the only real negative was the climax being a tad far-fetched, but I was invested enough by that point to let it slide. Perhaps I responded more warmly to Byrne's newest effort because it was more upfront about its intentions. Right from the get-go, I knew this was a film about Satanic possession. It's also a film about losing yourself in the artistic process, something for which I have at least cursory knowledge. I mean, when you are in “the zone”, who is to say that those inspirations don't come from outside sources? In contrast, The Loved Ones to me was just a really well-made torture flick.
|Director Sean Byrne (left) & star Ethan Embry.|
The Devil's Candy was a simple well-conceived idea that admirably put the pieces of character, visuals and sound together to make a solid horror film.
*Q&A photo courtesy of Ian Goring.