Pumpkin spice is back at your favorite coffee shop. Plastic pumpkins and skeleton fill the aisles of craft stores. Spirit Halloweens are opening across the country. Halloween is here, everyone, and I couldn’t be more excited. With the approaching holiday looming like a glowing jack-o-lantern on the horizon, Josh Hasty’s (Honeyspider) newest film Candy Corn capitalizes on that excitement. By combining All Hallow’s Magic and murder, Hasty taps into the allure of films that take place on the best day of the year.
Jacob Atkins is the town outcast who eats candy corn by the handful out of a plastic pumpkin. He is the target of a yearly hazing attack from local bullies, who despite graduating from high school, still think harassing someone different from them is a cool thing to do. On Halloween, the group of jocks head to the local carnival where Jacob is employed by Dr. Death (Pancho Moler, 31). But this year, the bullies take it too far and end up killing the boy. Enraged by the treatment of Jacob just because he was different, Dr. Death resurrects him as a murderous monster who enacts his revenge on those who wronged him.
“By combining All Hallow’s Magic and murder, [Candy Corn] taps into the allure of films that take place on the best day of the year.”
While it seems like this would be a film about Jacob, it ends up focusing more on Dr. Death, or Lester, as he tries to protect his tribe of misfits. Jacob becomes a voiceless creature who mindlessly commits murder while being encouraged by Dr. Death from afar. The politics of such a choice may seem questionable, as the town misfit is still manipulated in death by another person in the name of revenge.
But Candy Corn is a film that asks to ignore its politics and pay attention to the variety of wild deaths, many of which involve the ripping out of body parts such as spines and tongues. Jacob’s face is transformed into a twisted visage of horror, which is all the more terrifying as you watch him shove candy corn into his gaping maw. He kills without thought, a murder puppet controlled by Dr. Death and his years of rage. Tony Todd (Candyman) and P.J. Soles (Halloween) also make brief appearances in the film, and when I say brief, I mean less than a few minutes of screen time and only one or two lines of dialogue. However, they are still familiar horror faces that add to the Halloween magic of Candy Corn.
Many of the performances in the film are cringe-worthy as the bullies recite their lines like confused robots. This creates an even bigger emotional distance from them, and encourages the audience to cheer for their eventual demise. They are all insufferable and cruel, taking no responsibility for their actions, so they are already deplorable. But their poor line delivery makes them all the more unbearable. It is acting worthy of the cheesiest B-horror movie out there.
In contrast, Moler steals the show as the frustrated Dr. Death. While his line delivery is a bit choppy, he still gives it his emotional all. His intentions are questionable, but ultimately you empathize with him. He has spent years working in the carnival’s sideshow, reveling in things that make people weird or unique. But with that comes tragedy as the rest of the world cannot accept those different than them. Dr. Death has seen countless friends beaten and slaughtered by those like our group of bullies. But he will no longer take that abuse laying down. Moler creates a strange anti-hero that you are scared of, but also love both hesitantly love.
“Candy Corn is a perfect addition to a Halloween night movie marathon […] It is gory, goofy, and entertaining despite rocky performances and uneven dialogue.”
The production value for Candy Corn is way higher than expected, complete with beautiful costumes for Dr. Death and very 1990s outfits for everyone else. Hasty’s attention to detail elevates his film to another level, a piece of horror that knows what it is but wants to be pretty, too.
Candy Corn is a perfect addition to a Halloween night movie marathon, a palate cleanser between more intense films. It is gory, goofy, and entertaining despite rocky performances and uneven dialogue. While it sometimes feels like a B-horror movie, its more serious tone and higher production value keeps it from that over-the-top ridiculous subgenre. As the creepy season descends upon us, Hasty made a film that marks the most wonderful time of the year. Add it to your line-up alongside films such as Trick ‘r Treat, Halloween, and Hocus Pocus.
Candy Corn is out in select theaters now and comes to VOD on September 17. Excited for Candy Corn? Do you have a favorite movie that takes place on Halloween proper? Let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!