Candy Corn has all the makings of a new Halloween classic. The movie has iconic horror stars like Tony Todd and P.J. Soles, a well crafted setting, and the perfect title. Director Josh Hasty’s movie is much like the the well known treat. It will definitely make the audience think of Halloween, but it does not go down easy and leaves a bad aftertaste.
The story begins on the eve of Halloween. Dr. Death’s Sideshow Spookhouse Spectacular is passing through town. A local boy named Jacob who seems to be the target of much ridicule will be a part of it. When some local bullies’ annual pranking of Jacob takes an unexpected turn, no one is prepared for the bloodshed and mayhem that soon follow.
Much like the confectionery it is named after, Candy Corn puts anyone who sees it in the Halloween spirit. The setting is perfect. The run down look of the houses and building makes it look like the entire place is perpetually in autumn. Orange and brown leaves fill every yard giving off the appropriate atmosphere. A filter seems to have been used giving scenes a washed out look. The music is also well done and would fit perfectly in a haunted house. If nothing else, Candy Corn looks and sounds like a movie for the October holiday.
There are also some excellent practical effects. Candy Corn may be throwing its hat into contention for must watch Halloween movies, but at its core it is a horror movie. In other words, lots of death and blood. The film never disappoints with some of the best kills of the year. One spine tingling murder looks something out of Mortal Kombat.
This fatality could not happen at a better time. The story has serious pacing issues. Candy Corn is not a long movie nor does it take too much time developing characters or plot. It just starts to meander at times. The best murder comes at one of the slowest times in the movie. It does a great job of grabbing attention, but it also underscores how slow the movie can be.
There is nothing wrong with a methodical film if it is giving people watching something to be interested in. The story has potential, but is very routine. There is never insight given into any of the characters. Do the bullies just pick on Jacob for the sake of it? How does Jacob feel about this? Do the performers of the traveling show know what Dr. Death can do? There are many basic questions the script never bothers addressing. This leads to a series of scenes that are tied together but still difficult to get invested in.
The cast of Candy Corn may suffer the most. Some are guilty of bad acting, but the biggest culprit is poor writing. For example, while they are hiding out from the killer, one couple decides to spend some quality time together. We know this is happening because one of them literally says, “Let’s have sex.” Standard fare for a horror movie. Except this is happening at a freak show. In a theater. As they are being stalked. This is not pre murder coitus. This is, “sure, our lives are in danger but this erection ain’t going away by itself.”
The movie also does weird things with its characters. One girl is dating one of the bullies so she hangs out with them even though she does not seem to like them. No problem there as there is usually this type of character in this genre. As expected she stands up for Jacob and is threatened by the lead bully. Clearly, she is the hero. When she is unceremoniously disposed of it is one of the most surprising parts of the movie. Even stranger is when the film casts the main bully in a sympathetic light. This is the same bully who threatened to rape a girl after he killed someone who it is implied has mental health issues. It is akin to reducing a sodomy charge to shoplifting and predictably fails.
Of course, bad acting and silly dialogue are what make some cult classics so charming. There are random slow motion shots that are used sparingly and seemingly for no reason. When the bully is about to get is comeuppance, it is somewhat ruined by the fact he is a good deal taller than the otherworldly monster summoned to teach him a lesson. It is all laughably amateurish. Unfortunately, as bad as Candy Corn gets, it never reaches the point where it is entertainingly awful.
The closest it comes is through Pancho Moler’s portrayal of Dr. Death. It is over the top and filled with delightfully corny lines. The face paint he wears for the vast majority of the movie is sinister while evoking memories of the face painting booth at a church bazaar. Moler is obviously having a great time with the role. He does the most he can with the little he is given and turns in an memorable performance.
Candy Corn tries its hardest to be the new Halloween must see movie. There is much reason to think it will be. The mood is great and Dr. Death is a strong character that an entire franchise can be built off. Poor acting and writing make the movie very difficult to enjoy, however. Stick with the actual treat it is named after. You may not like it, but the memories will be a lot better.