The Devil’s Candy. (MA). 80 minutes. Now available on DVD.
After bursting onto the scene in 2009 with The Loved Ones, an unforgettable mix of teen angst, black comedy, and brutal horror, Aussie writer/director Sean Byrne seemed to fall off the map, despite the accolades and festival recognition (it won the prestigious Midnight Madness Award at the Toronto Film Festival).
Then in 2015, fans were excited to hear of his sophomore effort, which premiered at TIFF that year. After the success of The Loved Ones (which took over a year to reach Australian cinemas), it seemed logical that his follow-up would hit our shores much quicker this time, but unfortunately it hasn’t been the case, with The Devil’s Candy finally arriving direct to DVD in September.
The story follows struggling artist Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry), who along with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), move into a rural house in Texas, which they’ve managed to pick up at an insanely cheap price.
When previous tenant Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who has recently been released from a mental asylum, turns up with an electric guitar whose sounds seem to possess those that use the instrument, all hell breaks loose.
Like his debut feature, Byrne displays great visual flair, and just as importantly, has a great ear for sound design, with the demonic rumblings and chantings that fill the soundtrack being utterly eerie and unsettling.
What also sets this apart from the pack is the care Byrne shows towards his characters, who are then well-played by a well-chosen cast.
Cinematographer Simon Chapman and editor Andy Canny, who have collaborated with Byrne since his excellent 2007 short film Advantage, help craft this highly effective mood piece to a slick, stylish sheen, and there is a standout score from Mads Heldtberg and Michael Yezerski.
Only the fiery finale is somewhat of a letdown, with its over-the-top, illogical nature betraying the restrained, well-executed tension that preceded it.
Still, please search out The Devil’s Candy, it is well-worth your time.
It must be said that it is a huge disappointment that The Devil’s Candy has’t been released on Blu-Ray in Australia, and with no extras.
When it screened at the Melbourne Film Festival last year, Byrne, who was a guest, provided fascinating insight into how hard it is to finance a low-to-mid budget movie these days, as so much money is now pumped into television or mega-expensive superhero extravaganzas.
An audio commentary from this talented director would have been wonderful (where he got the funding, and how he got permission to use certain songs is equally compelling), as would have been behind-the-scenes documentaries and the footage deleted from his initial cut.
RATING – ***½
(M). Various running times. Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
With the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 about to open cinemas, it is of course the perfect time to revisit the original, which changed sci-fi as we knew it.
The Ridley Scott classic, adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (from the book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick), is one of those few futuristic visions that hasn’t dated one bit, and thoroughly deserves its legendary reputation.
For those three people out there who don’t own it, Blade Runner has been released again, this time on the 4K format, although it is only the most recent version, The Final Cut, that has received the royal treatment.
At the moment five official different versions exist (many fan edits also exist); the work print;US theatrical Cut; International Cut; The Director’s Cut; and The Final Cut.
The new edition doesn’t have everything that was on the five disc set released a few years back, which is a pity, but if you still don’t have this masterpiece in your collection, now is definitely the time to pick it up.
RATING – *****
– Aaron Rourke