In his long-awaited follow-up to the brutal 2009 prom night from hell feature film The Loved Ones, writer/director Sean Byrne is back with an even more outrageous spin on a group of innocents pulled into a deadly situation. It's quite a drastic location change to switch from filming in the island country of New Zealand to flying around the world to capture the dusty city of Austin, Texas, but Byrne photographs the land like he's lived there all his life.
As the satanic story unfolds of this small southern family caught within the encroaching fire that burned the previous residents long before they moved in, they find that even the smallest cinder left behind still manages to catch their perfect lives aflame, and engulf them whole. The evil presence still trapped in this house on this hot desert soil is still very much present and hungry for the sweet taste of blood. As the entity reaches out to steal the souls of these innocent people and drag them back to hell, this unsuspecting family soon finds everything they hold dear going up in flames.
In the film, a painter named Jesse, his wife, Astrid, and their daughter, Zoey, decide to uproot from their tiny apartment and move into a large house in the country with an oddly low buying price. After consulting with the real estate agent, Jesse and Astrid learn that the house comes with such a cheap price tag because two of the previous residents died in the home. The realtor, proving himself an unreliable narrator, fabricates a less offensive story for the family in the hopes that they'll overlook the deaths in favor of the dollar, and lucky for him, they take the bait. However, his gain is their ultimate loss, as a spirit sweeps through the air, whispering sacrilegious secrets in Jesse's ear, which personify in his newer, much more disturbing artwork.
Ray's no stranger to voices. He grew up in the house in which this family now resides, and he's ready to come home. At least, that's what the voices tell him. They also tell him to murder little children and bury their bodies in suitcases in the backyard. Normally, Ray can quiet the whispers by playing his guitar and blasting power chords through his amps as loud as possible, but now, things have changed. Without the shelter of his old home, Ray's left with no space to shred, and as a result, becomes more prone to doing the voices' biddings. This time, the voices are calling for Zoey, and as much as Ray tries to resist, he can't help but fulfill his master's dark desires.
Unlike other satanic films, which often feature more supernatural elements, The Devil's Candy interestingly works because it's a film completely set in reality, with aspects of Satan sprinkled in for taste. This isn't a possession film, nor is it one in which the protagonist makes a blood oath with Beelzebub, but rather a film set on the study of madness, and how such violent acts can be encouraged through the art of seduction when Satan uses the mad as a tool to commit sin.
Ethan Embry is fantastic as Jesse, the down-on-his-luck painter caught between possible oncoming success in his career and his duties as a father. What he used to derive from metal music when he worked in his studio has now been replaced by the whispers of the dark lord dancing in his ears, pulling him into a deep trance that Embry displays deliciously. Shiri Appleby and Kiara Glasco are terrific as well as the family members who love Jesse unconditionally, whether he's selling paintings, having a dry spell, or drawing pictures of his daughter going up in flames. The familial love is consistent and permeable, making it all the more traumatic to watch these people endure such horrifying harassment.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the bunch is Pruitt Taylor Vince as Ray, the little child lost inside an intimidating, looming grown man with murderous tendencies. Vince shines as the most terrifying, polite serial killer who honestly believes he has no choice in what he's doing. Through his deeply lamented actions made evident by his apologies and regretful eyes, as well as the never-ending chants that echo out from inside his head, Vince somehow manages to create a sense of sympathy for this monster; offering a unique insight into the mind of a deranged serial killer.
Director Sean Byrne proves once again that he is a master of horror and a fearless filmmaker who isn't afraid to put his characters in danger, or upset audiences with who he chooses as the victim. As the film rolls on, each scene more unsettling than the last, the deeply embedded tension mounts quickly, melding together the raw power of heavy metal, shocking violence, and satanic rituals to create a raw, ferocious, gritty, limitless power that makes this one of the most metal movies ever made. The devil can't be seen by the naked eye, as he lives not among us, but inside each one of us, but with Byrne's scorching depiction of the influence of the man in red, this film could serve as mankind's best look at the beast himself.
Movie Score: 4.5 / 5