At the time of this writing, kids are back in school, the oppressive summer heat has backed off, and the pools have closed. fall has unofficially begun. What does that mean besides Mountain Dew releasing a spooky new flavor? It means Halloween-set movies are in season. We can have our pumpkin spiced everything, and haters gonna hate but the secret witches and hallow-teens are ready to live their best lives regardless.
When I heard there was a movie called CANDY CORN, and that it was from Josh Hasty, the director of the Halloween-set HONEYSPIDER, AND I saw the glorious poster art, well, I began to salivate. It flooded my brain with October’s juices and charged my jangling bones with the warm scent of cider on a crisp autumn breeze. I couldn’t wait.
Every small town is sure to have their share of small minded folk. The small town of Grove Hill (pop. 1,980) is no different, as evidenced by the bullies that have a tradition to prank developmentally disabled local kid Jacob each Halloween. When things don’t go as planned and get out of hand outside of Dr. Death’s touring Freakshow, Dr. Death himself intervenes, and resurrects the newly slaughtered poor kid.
As I said, Dr. Death is the ringleader of this particular freakshow. He is played by Chilean little person actor Pancho Moler, and he is incredible. The phrase “chews the scenery” comes to mind, only because of Moler’s actual chewing motions. It’s like Dr. Death has a secret backstory for why he may have a jaw problem. But he definitely doesn’t overact, as the idiom implies.
Opposite Dr. Death is the small town sheriff played expertly by Courtney Gains in a brilliantly restrained performance. The sheriff is trying to solve the string of murders occurring in his usually peaceful community, and Dr. Death’s sideshow attraction that happens to be passing through town is highly suspect. There’s a bit of psychological cat-and-mouse, and in the meantime, the killer keeps after the bullies.
CANDY CORN is the most fun you’ll have with a halloween-themed movie this season. The music coupled with the photography creates an atmosphere worthy of autumn. Genre fans will be pleased to see small roles by Tony Todd, PJ Soles, and Sky Elobar, whose presences add equal parts street cred and fan service to the production. There are some pretty sick moments, and director Hasty isn’t scared to shock the audience or use a fair amount of blood, which can be a treat sweeter than a pillowcase full of Jolly Ranchers.
I don’t want to give away too much, so I am going to wrap things up by saying that CANDY CORN excels thanks to the acting and atmosphere, and while it won’t receive as much play as TRICK ‘R TREAT in my household, I’ll definitely be revisiting it from time to time, if only to watch the performance of Pancho Moler, and I hope to see much more from this budding superstar.
-Elliot “Rat” Ross