NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.
Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is a middle-aged, tracksuit-wearing man living in an old farm-house in Texas with his parents. Tormented by a sinister voice in his head, he tries to drown it out by strumming power chords at high volume on his electric guitar. When his mom makes him stop, he responds by hitting her with the guitar, causing her to fall down the stairs.
Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) is an aspiring, perspiring artist and metal-head reduced to painting a butterfly mural for a bank to make ends meet. He, along with his demure wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and metal-head daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), are in the market for a new home. Ray Smilie’s is now up for sale at a bargain price, following the tragic death of his parents. Hellman buys the house, and moves in with his family.
Smilie, now living in a hotel, continues to be haunted by the diabolical voice in his head, but…after a noise complaint, can no longer drown it out without drawing the attention of the local sheriff.
Soon, Hellman is hearing a voice as well, but for him, it becomes the impetus that drives him to create works of art with a quality far beyond anything he has achieved before. After he turns his butterfly painting into a hellscape of tortured children, he earns the praise of a prestigious gallery owner, and the promise of riches and success. With fame and fortune must come sacrifice…
Meanwhile, the voice drives Smilie to acts of destruction, not creation, as he is drawn back to his lost home, forcing Hellman to act to keep his dark muse from becoming the downfall of those he loves most.
While The Devil’s Candy initially appears to follow the standard young-couple-moves-into-a-haunted-house formula, it quickly turns into a much more interesting tale of temptation, deviance, and redemption.
The movie’s emotional core is the relationship between Jesse and his daughter Zooey; neither quite fits the mold that the world wants to cast them with. Their dedication to each other, and love of hard rock, is demonstrated effectively by Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco’s strong performances.
Mr. Vince, as Ray Smilie, is his usual creepy self. Ms. Appleby provides a quiet but strong performance as the somewhat more straight-laced member of the Hellman clan. Also portrayed well by writer/director Sean Byrne is Texas itself, with Jesse’s painting and the pounding rock soundtrack showing the grungy, sweaty side of the state. That’s in contrast with Zooey’s Polo-preppie classmates at her new suburban school. Featuring a unique style and a fresh take on an old genre trope, The Devil’s Candy is an easy recommend.