Jessica's November Pick
The Devil’s Candy (2015)
I first watched The Devil’s Candy over two years ago when I was bored one-day scrolling through Netflix. The film came out in 2015 and was written and directed by Australian filmmaker Sean Byrne, known for the 2009 horror film The Loved Ones (a film that is on my must-watch list). The Devil’s Candy is about a struggling painter, Jesse Hellman, who becomes possessed by satanic forces after he moves into his dream home in rural Texas accompanied by his partner Astrid, and his daughter Zooey. Now, when I first read the description of The Devil’s Candy on Netflix (as described above) I had a certain image in my mind about what I was getting into. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the direction the film went into and I have watched multiple times since, hence why it is my pick of the month for Heavy Metal Horror.
This film can be seen as the male version of Rosemary’s Baby, with the focus being on Jesse’s struggle as a father to protect his family from the satanic forces that are threatening them. It is a very masculine focused film with the constant highlight of Jesse’s physique, his connection to metal music (often deemed quite masculine) and his struggle with painting butterflies for a client, which he considers is not very “metal”. Blend this with the very dark lighting in many of the scenes combined with a very heavy and aggressive soundtrack from bands such as Machine Head, Metallica, and Pantera you get a masculine-esque film. However, Ethan Embry brings to the role a sensitivity to it that tends to balance out the masculine imagery. Jesse loves his family very deeply and you can see the psychological and emotional toll the “possessions” he is experiencing weighs heavily on him as it leaves them vulnerable to grisly violence. Metalheads are often portrayed as dangerous, or deviant, and not the “crowd” you want to be getting mixed up with. However, Embry brings to the screen an image of metalheads that is refreshing: he is not mean, crude, miserable or boorish but an intelligent, creative, happy and sensitive man who enjoys dark and aggressive music. This happens to be very true about most fans of metal music, and they are often the most creative, happiest and welcoming group of people.
I am not going to go into spoiler territory for The Devil’s Candy because I feel like it deserves to be enjoyed knowing as little as possible about it. Each time I watch this film, I see a variety of themes that I would love to talk about in full depth one day. Some of these being the relationship between metal music and Satanism, the struggle of alternative families and lifestyles, Satanic Panic, father and daughter relationships, sacrifice for wealth, and the empathic nature of creative individuals. The fact that this movie touches upon so many themes and topics that I am interested in learning about and talking about in the horror genre makes it a movie I enjoy thoroughly.
One of the elements I love about this film is the character Zooey (Zoe) Hellemen, played by Kiara Glasco. She is a young female metal head and she has no problems identifying as such. Her hair is dyed purple, she wears over-sized band shirts, ripped jeans and every inch of her bedroom walls are plastered with posters of metal bands and musicians she adores. Zoe is liberated in her love for metal music and yet she is still a young woman living in a society that unfortunately is not too kind to people who live outside the box. While it is not the focus of the film, we know that due to the move Zoe has to attend a new high school and experience the dreaded first day as the “new kid”. On that day, she doesn’t tone down who she is at all and shows up looking as metal AF. However, as she expresses to her mother, Astrid, later on, that her first day was hell and Zoe tries to pull off being sick to avoid going back the next day. I couldn’t help but notice that on her second day of school, her outfit is toned down a bit too basic black leggings and a purple t-shirt while her hair is brushed and nicely done up. Zoe forgoes the metal t-shirt and it seems like she is trying to fit in the best as she could while still being true to herself.
I can’t help but think that on her first day of school that because she looked so different and representative of her metal alternative lifestyle that she would have been ostracized from her peers because she didn’t look ‘normal’. The film goes in a different direction so we don’t see any more of Zoe’s experiences at her new school but you can’t help but wonder what the rest of her school experience would have been like. It makes me think about how many people have been labeled “outsiders” and have experienced some form of alienation because we like to wear all black, listen to metal music and watch horror films.
Another aspect that I love about this film is the relationship that Jesse has with Zoe. Father and daughter have developed a special relationship based upon their mutual love for metal music. One of my favourite scenes is when the family is driving and both Jesse and Zoe subtly headbanging to Cavalera’s Conspiracy’s ‘Killing Inside’ until the song comes to a heavy part and the two of them begin to intensely headbang. For how “metal” that scene is, it is also heartwarming to see a father and daughter share such a moment of bonding. You can tell that despite the struggles this family is about to endure and how this relationship will become strained, the two of them have something that no one can take away from them, not even the Devil himself.