Reviewbr> "That's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way? I go back and forth on that..." Hayley
Hayley, an honours student don't you know, and Jeff meet in one of those online chat rooms that the moral campaigners are always warning us about. Turns out the campaigners are right, as Hayley is 14 and Jeff is 32. Talk about your meat to the grinder, and every parent's worse nightmare. Jeff may or may not be a paedophile, but Hayley is planning a little predator action herself.
Back at Jeff's pad we quickly get into some cat and mouse shenanigans as this two shoot movie heats up, dares to go where most movies wont, and puts the kick arse back into horror during a rather sub-standard year for the genre. Hayley isn't what she seems, and that's going to mean a world of hurt for Jeff. A surprisingly engrossing movie ensues which is nothing short of brilliant in the execution. Ready for some social engineering?
A totally engrossing movie which depends on two leads for 90% of it's running time, and limits itself to a few stark sets. Hard Candy marks David Slade's entry into movie making, and the dude delivers both barrels at the audience, and is totally unapologetic in doing so.
First up a few people are going to have issues with this movie being classed as a horror movie. Okay it doesn't involve any supernatural elements, or for that matter a body count, but it definitely dials into horror themes in a big way. Simply put, writer Nelson knows the taboos and goes about breaking them with no concerns what so ever. Hard Candy is a psychological horror movie that doesn't rely on blood and guts. It doesn't need too as the subject matter itself is unsettling enough.
David Slade announces his talen to the world in this engrossing heavy themed movie that will have you squirming like a school girl at a Bieber concert
Director Slade is one of those dudes who you know you'll mark down as someone to keep your eye on. Like Brad Anderson and Neil Marshal, Slade knows his genre and more importantly knows what works and what doesn't within it. There's no attempt at sudden shock tactics, and nothing in the gore department going down. This one works off a simple premise, and then twists it out of shape as the story unfolds. Slade and Nelson don't bother with in-depth background plotting, the movie happens in the now, and is more forceful for that. Is Hayley correct in what she thinks, or is Jeff the victim here?
Slade has his mojo on and presents almost an arthouse flick in execution. We get slow mo at stages, improperly used during the drive to Jeff's place in this reviewer's opinion, fast still frame to capture the movement of time, and simply the best cut scenes I have ever seen. All about that movement from the deep red wall to the pastel green one. Freaking interesting and a breath of fresh air in a jaded genre. Slade keeps the tight close ups coming at us, and at times this movie transcends the genre to becoming pure art. Slade keeps it all up close and personal, which is exactly what was needed. Guess a lot of horror fans are not going to be happy with that decision.
As Stephen King once put it, story is everything in horror, and we don't get short changed on that aspect of the movie. Nelson has some things happening and Slade nails them visually. What was Hayley's relationship to the murdered chick, they aren't telling us, make your own call. Is Jeff a paedophile, watch the movie to find out. What makes a 14 year old go to these levels? The movie will have you debating any number of plot points; the movie makers successful steer clear of pat answers and resolutions.
Hard Candy is a movie requiring audience participation, hence the teen market is out, and goes about manipulating the audience as the story unfolds. You will need to listen to the dialogue to get some background details. For example one criticism levelled at the movie is Hayley's ability to have all bases covered and not to come unstuck as things go down. Anyone pick up on the fact that she has done this before? Like any good crafts person she has learnt through doing. This is covered in one shocking line of dialogue towards the end of the movie, Slade isn't leaving any plot holes here, all bases covered hombre.
Any review of this movie would be amiss without some discussion of the surgical scene. Grueling and totally engrossing was my call. Slade handles the whole thing with a huge degree of sophistication seldom seen in modern horror flicks. Everything is suggested, the dialogue once again comes to the fore, and its pretty unwatchable for the male audience members. I was digging the whole thing, while winching at the implied results. Then again it's exactly what I think should be done to paedophiles, hey since when did I claim civilised as one of my virtues! Just ask my wife; I'm from the old school wild colonial boy frame of reference.
There are some nice touches to this movie proving the miniature wasn't being overlooked. The whole you don't know who you are talking to on the net is covered, modern technology is used throughout as plot device, and that whole red riding hood thing was cool. There's a wolf involved here, and end of day you kind of wouldn't want to go into the woods with either main character.
I've kind of been hard pressed reviewing this movie as I don't want to give the game away, it's a must see flick and Hard Candy was one of the few movies last year that lived up to the hype surrounding it. So I apologise for not covering the visuals and script in detail.
In any two-shoot movie the success is going to be dependent on the main actors delivering throughout and the casting choices here were beyond excellent.
Patrick Wilson (Jeff) managed to both evoke some deep-seated hatred in me and while doing so gained some surprising sympathy at stages. The bride is striped bare here and Wilson is all over that. A wonderful performance as the dude forced to face his own shortcomings, past crimes, and having a mirror thrust into his face. Wilson delivers on all aspects of his sleazy character and managed to grab the victim identity in the movie without missing a step. Loved the final act where he gets free and takes on a whole "going to deal with this bitch" stance, all via facial expression and body language.
The real star of the show however is 17th year old Ellen Page (Hayley) who simply showed up on the set and turned it on. She has all aspects of her complex character covered, from the hip talk, to the very serious avenging angel. Page nails the somewhat awkward Hayley seen in the first act of the movie, to the take charge knowledgeable beyond her years Hayley seen through the mid and final parts of the movie. Definitely an actor worth noting and a future Oscar winner.
T&A isn't happening in this movie, which given the premise is a blessing. Like the lack of gore it wasn't a requirement.
Harry Escott and Molly Nyman present a minimalist score that is techno-ish based with some trance thrown in for good measure. Slade doesn't over use it, as the movie is dialogue driven and meant to be stark in presentation. God use of sound bites throughout to add to the dark underpinnings of the visuals.
Hard Candy is a controversial movie dealing with some pretty heavy ideas. Fully engrossing and absolutely brilliant at stages, I was mesmerized by the performances of the two leads and the over all look and feel. Want to know how to throw on a scene in a movie that will have your audience squirming, then check this bad boy out. Director Slade goes the whole nine yards and kicks a major with the flick. One of the best movies from 2006, Hard Candy delivers on all fronts, and proves the horror genre is still worthy of note.
The movie generated a lack luster $6,826,234 USD Worldwide as audiences decided they would rather dive into inane comedies and general horror crap rather than dialing into heavy hitters. Australia returned $282,548 AUD on a limited run, but considering the Distributor paid up fronts for the rights, can be considered a win. The movie was hampered by adult ratings in different markets, more for the ideas than the visuals.
Full recommendation on this movie, go grab a copy today and get ready for an experience in psychological battering over the head. Hard Candy doesn't pull it's punches, goes full steam ahead into territory other movies wouldn't attempt, and is one hell of an intense outing. Take my advice, suck on some candy, but don't bite, as the movie will break your jaw.
"And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you" - Friedrich Nietzsche