Halloween Endurance Test: Hard Candy (2005)

David Slade’s Hard Candy is one of the minimalist horror movies currently in vogue (Bug, and the Strangers also coming to mind). Horror movies are still, after all, one of the sure fire ways to make money in the theater, even as the theaters close up. (Where else can teenagers be together in the dark for hours without parental supervision?)

Given that the genre itself is a cash cow, what better way to exploit it than by utilizing scripts that use only a handful of people (here: two principals: Jeff (Patrick Wilson) and Hayley (Ellen Page)) on a small set (a house). These same factors also make it the perfect property for a director who’s recently graduated to full-length films.

While my distaste for “psychological thrillers” has already been discussed here, this one works because between the two characters, you don’t ever know who’s more messed up. Is it Jeff, the pedophile, for being, you know, a pedophile? Or Hayley for being a young girl who gets off on torturing pedophiles?

On the one hand, the pedophile is going to lose in any argument. But it’s also hard to imagine any sort of future great life for Hayley; as she’s clearly having trouble distinguishing between right and wrong.

This moral ambiguity is the film’s strongest selling point. While no one wants their child to be molested, I’m pretty sure they don’t want said kid to be performing castrations in the kitchen either. Or guilting people into hanging themselves on the roof. While Hayley’s certainly the victim, she’s also a sociopath.

The film only has one true hero, and that’s the cinematographer, as the colors here are brilliant. The muted blues and greens, not to mention the red walls. They’re unbelievable! I understand Jeff is a photographer, but walls this red, and consistently throughout the house?

Hard Candy’s only major flaws are its length, and the fact that its ending rests on an impossibly huge lattice of coincidences. She knows he’s going to break free, so she runs outside, and climbs onto the roof, knowing he’ll come looking for him?

Trusting that he wouldn’t, I don’t know, come after her with another gun she might not have found? I find it hard to believe that a sexual predator, and possible killer, would leave himself so vulnerable in the end. Crying and feeling repentant while still holding onto mementos of his other victims?

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