For me, it’s never too early to start watching Halloween movies. I love horror, and I love independent movies so for me, getting the opportunity to watch Josh Hasty’s directorial debut Candy Corn I jumped at the chance. Before even seeing the trailer, I had heard of this film through some discussions with other horror fans speaking about it in vague terms. I had checked out the cast, and I was impressed. The movie stars horror icons such as Tony Todd (Candyman, Hell Fest) and PJ Soles (Halloween, Carrie), Courtney Gains (Back to the Future, Children of the Corn), Pancho Moler (31, 3 From Hell), Sky Elobar (TheGreasy Strangler) so I was immediately drawn to it.
The film follows the exploits of a group of friends who decide to continue their annual Halloween tradition of tormenting Jacob Atkins (Nate Chaney), a developmentally disabled teenager who has found acceptance and employment with Dr. Death’s Sideshow Spookhouse Spectacular, led by Pancho Moler as the eponymous Doctor Death. When we are first introduced to Jacob we see him eating candy corn out of a plastic Jack O’Lantern before riding his bicycle to the carnival and is admonished by Lester for being late, only for Lester to tell him that he is part of the family, stating “you’re one of us”- evoking the line from Tod Browning’s 1932 masterpiece Freaks. Despite the disapproval of Steve’s (Cy Creamer) girlfriend Carol (Madison Russ), Mike (Jimothy Beckholt) convince them as well as Bobby (Caleb Thomas) that it would be fun, and laid out his plan to humiliate Jacob because it’s “fun” and “tradition”.
They isolate and confront Jacob, along with Gus (Sky Elobar). Jacob, apparently, wanted nothing to do with them. He tried pushing them away, getting them to leave him alone. Jacob did not speak, perhaps being unable to, but wanted to make sure that his intentions were clear. He shoved Mike to the ground, which prompts the others to savagely beat him, except for Carol who cowered behind a trailer but did nothing to stop them or intervene.
Eventually, Carol feels terrible about what happened but the others justified their actions. They defended what they did by saying that Jacob started the physical confrontation by putting his hands on Mike, ignoring completely the fact that they surrounded him and gave him no option. Jacob is found by Doctor Death in the aftermath of the assault, and as we have seen in many movies in this vein, he performs a ritual to not only bring Jacob back to life but make him an unstoppable vehicle for brutal retribution, always foreshadowed by the sighting of Jacob’s plastic bucket filled with candy corn.
Now, there have been many movies like this and one of the most difficult things that a horror movie has to do is keep the audience’s interest by giving them something they’ve never seen before. Candy Corn manages to do this and does it well. One of the hallmarks of a good horror movie is the creativity of the kills and how memorable the death scenes are. There are certainly some savage deaths in this movie and some good gore effects; the creature design for Jacob is also very well done. This was a well-written and a well-acted movie as well, especially with the way so many characters interact not only with their own groups but with the other groups of characters as well. The reason I bring this up is that sometimes in movies you’ll see certain groups of characters who interact well with the other actors with whom they share the most screen time, but when they have to interact with other characters they don’t seem to have quite as much chemistry.
Candy Corn does a lot of things very well, including making you question what is really going on. There are a lot of conflicts going on between the various groups – the carnival folk, the police (led by Mike’s father Sam, played by Courtney Gains) and Mike and his friends. The conflict between these three groups and even the internal conflict within each group drove the plot forward and really helped to make this a unique cinematic experience. One thing I need to touch on is to remind you again that this is Josh Hasty’s directorial debut. I know I mentioned that already, but the fact that he was able to work so well with icons and legends of horror speaks to how skilled he is as a storyteller. Candy Corn is a sweet treat that never tricks the audience.
Candy Corn comes to Blu-Ray, VOD and limited theatrical release on September 17th so you can enjoy all the brutality, intrigue, and revenge that comes with the traveling carnival led by Doctor Death in a variety of ways. There are some great performances from everyone involved, and the dynamic between Pancho Moler and Tony Todd is one of my favorite aspects of this movie. I’m a fan of Pancho and I do hope he gets more roles where he can be terrifying and show his ability to take over a scene, even with other titans of the industry on-screen with him at the same time. He’s already proven that he can hang with other icons, and I’d like to see more of what he can do.
I highly recommend Candy Corn because of all the reasons I’ve already given; it’s unique, Josh Hasty’s writing and direction are superb, the acting is incredible, and the creativity of not only the kills but the mythology behind the characters is a welcome change of pace from the traditional horror ventures we tend to see. There is nothing lazy or unoriginal here. Do yourself a favor and check this out, support independent cinema because that’s where the most originality will be found, and we’ll get more great stuff like this.