For those going out trick or treating, Candy Corn may seem like an odd choice to receive in your candy sack. But for Jacob, as well as ourselves, it's exactly the treat we needed for the impending Halloween season.
Josh Hasty makes his feature film debut, Candy Corn, after his Behind The Scenes entry of “In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31”- a slasher film that follows more than just a gruesome murderer out for revenge. I found myself haunted by the film and entertained by its 80s horror aesthetic. At a slim 85 minutes, Hasty's direction utilizes every second of the runtime to capitalize on the creation of the Carpenter-esque atmosphere as well as the shadowy being once known as Jacob. Slow motion has never been a top notch feature in a film; in fact, for many, slow motion eliminates the effect of what the scenes are trying to show, but just as Zombie managed it with his career, Hasty has a charm to his use of slow motion and staggering flashes during scenes that don’t harm the overall quality of the film - becoming instead a key element to look for. More than anything though, it’s Hasty’s fluent camerawork as well as strategic editing that makes Candy Corn a fast and gratifying watch - especially when witnessing the beginning of a thriving horror career for the man behind the scenes.
Candy Corn follows a group of bullies on Halloween that take their annual hazing a little too far, leading to their victim returning from the dead to seek revenge on the people who targeted him. The plot is split between several side stories that merge into one another by Candy Corn’s close: the authorities search, the bullies attempting to survive Jacob’s wrath, and the carnival folk, all lead by Dr. Death watching from the sidelines. Candy Corn’s storylines collide flawlessly, with only moments of vexatious pacing throughout the runtime. The film is marvelously reminiscent of a young John Carpenter and Rob Zombie, with pieces calling forth not only The Shape but the insane likability of the “villain” Dr. Death similar to the unreasonable likability of Captain Spaulding from The Devil’s Rejects. The writing is very distinct while displaying similarities to other classic lines of work. Hasty’s story is incredibly original and a fascinating story to watch unfold - especially with a wide variety of personalities throughout the town of Grove Hill.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
With an all star cast of horror legends accompanying our leads within Candy Corn including Tony Todd (Candyman), Courtney Gains (The Burbs), and P.J. Soles (Halloween), it's difficult to undersell this film as anything other than a horror fanatic's fever dream. Led with a strikingly fantastic performance by Pancho Moler (Sick-Head in 31) as our likable villain Dr. Death, it's a shame that the carnies surrounding him couldn't manage to be half as interesting. All I could have wished for was a little more time to elaborate on the relationship between Pancho Moler’s Dr. Death and Tony Todd’s Bishop Gate, which is something that surely will be better explored in possible sequels. Our bullies are just as unlikable as you'd hope, making the time leading to their death all the more worth seeing play out, as our hate for them continues to flourish. While the head of the bullies won’t be pulling any accolades, his performance works in the nature of the tone. Jacob (Nate Chaney) is mesmerizing in his role as he has the horror movie killer walk down flat, bringing to screen a performance as nuanced as the likes of Nick Castle in 1978's Halloween.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Candy Corn is expressive with all its best 80s horror qualities, and one of which is the tense and nostalgic score composed by Michael Brooker and Josh Hasty, who similar to other aspects of the feature, seem to spawn inspiration from horror classics. They aren’t afraid to use a simplistic approach with their score, heightening the overall tone and setting an eeriness to the underlying story ahead of the terror that lays afoot
The sets are pure magic and the brutality of each character death is shown with such precision to show the effects of our killer's murderous nature without an excessive amount of blood and gore yet maintaining the incredibly gruesome effect. Although there is plenty of that … but the proper amount to be appreciated. The practical effects are magnificent to see, with a crucial moment near the film’s close being a grand example of the glorious effects work. The mask of the killer is horrifying and sure to be an image that sticks with viewers long after the credits roll. As an Ohio native, the town felt like home in a way, similar to how natives of Illinois felt seeing The Shape walking the streets (by location name only in this comparison). It struck fear into our hearts as we left the auditorium upon our initial viewing and months later upon it's official release it has successfully had the same effect. In an awkward attempt to add another needless praise, the subtle subtitle of "Halloween" in a very familiar font near the beginning of the film brought a smile to my face.
Josh Hasty's Candy Corn delivered in a way that no modern horror has been able to successfully capture since the original Halloween - a true return to form for the slasher genre. It leaves one to wonder what other stories Dr. Death has to tell from his traveling carnival, and I for one am ready to witness Dr. Death’s stories be told.