In our Throwback Thursday series, we’re looking back at movies, TV shows, books or comics that are more than a year old and don’t fit with our regular “flashback” features. Maybe we missed it when it was new, or we want to revisit an old favorite. Basically, we’re reviewing old stuff because we feel like it.
Don’t put on “The Devil’s Candy” (2015, Netflix) if you want something light. But if you’re in the mood for a stylish, heavy-metalized thriller, this is your film. I checked it out because it’s a Shiri Appleby movie I hadn’t seen, and it also features her fellow 1990s teen star Ethan Embry. They play Astrid and Jesse Hellman, who — along with daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) – comprise a family that moves into a big but affordable country home outside of town.
The realtor notes that, by law, he has to tell them the previous owners died in the house. I’ve always thought that’s an interesting law, because it practically codifies the existence of ghosts as a mitigating factor in a property’s value. Of course, if the real world were like horror movies, the law would make sense. “The Devil’s Candy” is more thriller than horror, but people with children will find it especially intense and frightening.
The three leads have great chemistry, and Glasco looks like she could be the daughter of Embry and Appleby. They’re a metal-loving family, especially father and daughter, whose idea of “something lighter” is Metallica. Jesse and Astrid also enjoy a joint now and then. While they’d scare away some straight-laced folk, they are good, salt-of-the-earth people. When Jesse tells a strange visitor to get off their porch or he’ll call the police, Zooey chastises him for not following his own mantra of treating others as you’d like to be treated.
The fourth lead is Pruitt Taylor Vince, a steadily working character actor who plays a variation on his role from the “X-Files” Season 4 episode “Unruhe,” where he kidnaps Scully. In a dirty orange tracksuit that seems to be the extent of his wardrobe, Ray is big and strange and certainly not the type of fellow you want prowling around your house, but he also has an unstable innocence.
Despite the metal soundtrack and the grim images that Jesse paints on a large canvas in his barn studio, a lot of the drama centers on young parents’ simple fears. When Jesse forgets to pick up Zooey at school, it becomes the most important thing in his life that he never forgets again.
Writer-director Sean Byrne is more into crafting a stylized movie than worrying about logic. It seems like in the modern world, there should be alternate options if you’re a parent and your kid is stuck waiting for you at school. It seems like the bus would be an option, and – although she doesn’t have a car – Astrid presumably works in town, too.
The biggest reason why “The Devil’s Candy” is merely an OK movie is that the plot is straight down the middle. You’ll know exactly what’s transpiring pretty quickly. That said, the cast is excellent, Byrne’s style is ever-present, and it might be worth watching for those who enjoy dark thrillers.