Review: Capturing the Spirit of Halloween, CANDY CORN is a More Than Worthy Holiday Film
It’s rare to find a film that really captures the Halloween season as well as fans would hope for. More often than not, horror films try to give genre lovers an icon and force feed that hope so hard, that the substance lacks and as an audience, you’re given a first film that comes off like a little kid, tugging at your pant leg, asking “PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” It’s discouraging to say the least and though more times than not, we’re given those hopeful series starters, the rare example of a film laying ground work that genuinely FEELS like a series genesis is a sight to see. In the case of Josh Hasty’s Candy Corn, we’re given exactly that: a film that perfectly captures what’s so magical about the Halloween season, and gives viewers a story and characters that combined, makes for one hell of a ride.
Taking the familiar story of a bully-filled hazing gone wrong and running with it, Candy Corn wastes no time in jumping right into its tale of revenge and Halloween magic. Jacob Atkins (a great Nate Chaney), an awkward outcast who works for a small carnival sideshow, is the victim on a group of hoodlums, who find nothing more appealing that picking on those who can’t defend themselves. That backfires when the hazing hits the fan and Jacob is accidentally killed. Enter Dr. Death (Pancho Moler, 3 From Hell, 31), the charismatic leader of the sideshow with big plans of his own. Seeing Jacob’s death as a catalyst to create a messenger of revenge, Dr. Death performs a ritual that not only brings the slain man back from the dead, but also permanently attaches one hell of a Halloween mask onto Jacob’s face, giving horror fans one of the coolest looking characters in years.
What’s great about Candy Corn is that it knows exactly what it is. Hasty takes familiar tropes and offers a new spin on them, making the film feel refreshing and exciting and the Justin Mabry-designed mask on Jacob is impossible not to want to add to your own collection. Filling his film with genre regulars like Tony Todd, P.J. Soles and Courtney Gains, Hasty gives fans a horror treat. You want the bullies to meet their end and when they do, it’s one bloody sequence after another, all while also providing familiar faces to round out the cast. Soles is great as Gains’ receptionist/dispatcher and Todd gives an unexpectedly reserved performance as Death’s right-hand carnie. It’s great to see the Candyman actor play against type and it works well, same with Courtney Gains. Playing the town’s sheriff and lead bully’s father, Gains does a great job at giving viewers a character that never feels one dimensional, he walks the fine line between trying to do what’s right and protecting his mess of a kid.
While everyone involved does a great job, the real star of Candy Corn is Pancho Moler and his performance as Dr. Death. Moler has so much fun with the role and it shows. He’s electric to watch, pushing back against Gains every chance he gets and Candy Corn is just one more example of why Moler is one to watch for. Between Hasty’s film and Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell, Moler gives two of the coolest horror performances of the year and if we DO end up getting a sequel to Candy Corn, then this writer cannot wait to see what devilish deeds Death will come up with next.
Candy Corn is a fun, exciting ride, but there are a small amount of issues here and there. The antagonist bullies are prickish enough to make you WANT to see them all meet their gory demises, but when those deaths do happen, a lot of the carnage happens out of frame, giving fans the crazy aftermath, but never showing much in terms of it happening at the moment. Between that and some interesting choices of somber music playing every timer a bully’s body is found, the small nitpicks aren’t enough to ever take away from the fun with the film and they’re easy to overlook. Like Halloween 4, Candy Corn perfectly captures the Halloween spirit and gives viewers an iconic-looking character to latch onto with Jacob. Give us more, Hasty, give us more.