BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring: Pancho Moler, Courtney Gaines, P.J. Soles
Directed by: Josh Hasty
Written by: Josh Hasty
Epic Pictures / Local Boogeyman Productions
The tone for Candy Corn is set almost immediately as we are shown four unrepentantly shitty teenagers with the most punchable faces ever while they gleefully plan the assault of a handicapped boy. The director, Josh Hasty (In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn, 31), goes to great pains to show how detestable these youths are, mostly through the sad facial hair of the “cute” one of the group. Seriously, this mustache is so gross and depressing I thought it was written by Cormac McCarthy.
Anyways, the four teens and their pet mustache are soon joined by a depressing, depraved sad sack of sleaze by the name of Gus, played by the incomprehensible Sky Elobar. Sky is somehow equally as repugnant as his character from The Greasy Strangler. They set in motion a plan to rough up this poor kid at night, while he is working at a travelling circus. Yes, before you ask, there’s going to be a freakshow.
“The boy comes back, but as always, he comes back wrong.”
After the boy’s assault goes awry (see: murder), the carnival owner does some folksy backwoods black magic involving a spooky rubber mask to the poor boy’s corpse. Like a freakshow version of the Pumpkinhead ritual, the boy comes back, but as always, he comes back wrong.
This movie is jam packed with memorable and charmingly awful characters like a pillow case bursting with Halloween candy. Oddly, the town’s sheriff is played by Courtney Gains (The ‘Burbs, Back to the Future), who I most remember as a smug pedophile in L.A. Noire, which should give you a good idea of what kind of character his look naturally conveys. Having a face that screams “amber alert” isn’t exactly my first choice to convey law enforcement, so I believe it was a deliberate choice by the director. It was probably the director’s way of letting us know that there aren’t a lot of likable people in this story, which is a hint to not get too attached to very many characters.
Playing against type, but doing it masterfully, Tony Todd (Candyman, Night of the Living Dead) is genuinely one of the only voices of morality and reason in this film. I’d say he was sadly under utilized, but that’s just me, who could watch Tony Todd wash the dishes or fold laundry for two hours and think it was resplendent. Although, watching Todd get aggressively smack talked by someone two feet smaller than him is an incredible juxtaposition, which totally justifies his role in this film.
Said smack talk is delivered by the earlier mentioned carnival owner, a melodramatic little person in perpetual corpse paint aptly named Dr. Death (although his off-stage name is the equally disturbing Lester.) Lester is played by the compelling Pancho Moler (31, American Horror Story), who chews the scenery like it owes him money, which works in a film this self-aware. Lester claims that he will never die, which is probably just a flair for the dramatic, but he did manage to bring a kid back from the dead, so who knows?
Adding to this fantastic freakshow, Candy Corn has a bombastic soundtrack composed by Michael Brooker (31) as well as the director, Hasty. Having the director add their flair to the composition is a staple of great horror music since Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s dramatic when it needs to convey loss, it’s gloomy when death is right around the corner and bizarre when things get soul/skull crushing. Every scene is accompanied by a fitting and fun score that perfectly exemplifies the mood while drastically enhancing it. A true testament to the skill of both composers.
A supernatural slasher that wears its inspirations on its sleeves by having P.J. Soles (Halloween, Carrie) in a fun cameo, Candy Corn is a surprisingly fun and entertaining film. While it may unabashedly recreate the feel and tones from horror movies of yesteryear, it doesn’t rely on nostalgia as a crutch. And despite seeming like your standard horror fair the film actually has one or two twists up its sleeve to really flesh out the narrative. To also keep you off kilter, sometimes the gore is understated with an off screen mutilation, then next thing you know, someone’s spine is pulled out like a small-town Predator.
A lunatic love letter to all the carnival and candy killers that paved the way before it, Candy Corn delivers on everything it promises it would be. This is a guilty pleasure revenge flick that has you rooting for the underdog, or at least rooting against his victims. Josh Hasty combines a lot of tropes, like dickhead teenagers, freakshows, small town charm, inept cops, loping masked killers and rural black magic, but although these ingredients aren’t new, he combines them into a tasty yet bloody candy corn pie.
And again, I can not understate how awful that kid’s mustache is. Watch it and see for yourself.