Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pretty as a Pentagram

I've never been much (read: none) of a metal head - a year or two before I was obsessing over Radiohead's OK Computer I was pretty obsessed with Nine Inch Nails but Closer's the closest I ever got. And to be honest I find the longstanding connection between heavy metal music and horror movies usually right on the side of goofy. Ozzy Osbourne biting the heads off bats and records speaking Satan-ese when played backwards - that's just some goofy, goofy shit.

The weird thing is you'd think it might've been my jam when it came time to rebel, because I was raised in a strict as hell (pardon the pun) Christian environment - in the Sunday School classes of my teenage years we actually watched Scare 'Em Straight videotapes about the evils of Devil Worshiping Rock Music. But those videos were the goofy yin to Alice Cooper's goofy yang - oh god, you devil, I'm not there for any of it. (Thankfully it turned out that cock-sucking was plenty of a rebellion from religion for me - I highly recommend it as an alternative route for anyone.)

I've often felt kind of alienated from the Horror Movie Lovers Community because of this disconnect - look at the pictures from any Horror Con and it's mostly a bunch of Slayer t-shirts and Heavy Metal magazine tattoos, as if somebody squeezed a Hot Topic store through a meat grinder. What's so scary about being so damn obvious? The real horrors are the dead-eyed preppy mad-men - you guys keep your black nail polish; Jeffrey Dahmer and his courtroom button-downs are my how-to style guide on horror. (Editor's Note: Jeffrey Dahmer actually loved Black Sabbath.) 

I'm setting up and smacking around a bunch of straw-men here before diving into The Devil's Candy because I feel as if my antipathy towards head-banging the sign of the horns informs what I have to say on the movie, which is that I was worried going in this was going to be along the lines of 2015's "much loved" heavy metal horror movie Deathgasm, which I made it twenty minutes into before having to throw in the towel - Deathgasm leaned too hard into all my biases about the genre; I just don't get it. It does not speak to me.

Thankfully The Devil's Candy is not a goof. Writer-Director Sean Byrne sweeps all the bullshit off the table and seemingly scours his own nightmares for something fundamentally disturbed beneath the fire-breathing dragons with big busted ladies riding on their backs - you can see it in the paintings that Ethan Embry's character paints, which are more of an amalgamation of the hellscapes of Hieronymus Bosch mixed with the disquieting kiddies of Henry Darger's Vivian Girls. They're just... not right, in the right way. Not the wrong way. Ya know?

There were still aspects of The Devil's Candy that kept me at arm's distance, which might just come down to my own disinclination towards its scene, but this movie comes closer to making a case for "The Devil's Music" than any other movie I can think of. It never poses itself as an inside baseball take, for one - its characters don't belabor their heavy metal affectations past the point of no return. And Pruitt Taylor Vince's serial killer is genuinely terrifying - an unstoppable insanity in construction cone orange lumbering about - and the film's strongest when it's skulking through the rural nowhere places alongside him, closing in on innocence one satanic whisper at a time. For him I shuddered, and flinched, and I maybe even banged my head in horror once or twice too, if I'm being honest.


MTMSLG said...

Vince seems typecast as the psycho killer --- Maybe it's the lazy eye thing. But boy, he is a first rate psycho killer!

Joel said...

As with Deathgasm, it didn't work for me. It was better, sure, but... eh. It's the metal horror, as you so perfectly described and I agreed to 100%. Rob Zombie doesn't appeal to me either. Again, Devil's Candy was better than him too, but not enough for me to care very much.

Maxim Ross said...

The paintings remind me of William Atherton's character's artwork in The Day of the Locust.