REVIEW: Bad Candy (2020)

dir. Scott B. Hansen & Desiree Connell

The Halloween season is fast approaching and with it comes a new batch of fun-sized terror tales in this horror anthology that answers the call of 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat as New Salem DJs Chilly Billy (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) and Paul (Zach Galligan, Gremlins) spin a series of loosely connected stories for their annual Halloween broadcast. Despite its slightly messy execution the result boasts some truly scary and upsetting moments, and excels at creating a Halloween ambiance so rich you can almost feel the crisp autumn leaves crunching underfoot, the weight of a full bag of candy in your hand. 

In addition to the DJ hook, segments are thematically connected by a terrifying clown who seems to embody the spirit of the season, dishing out punishment to those who would dishonour it. Standout vignettes include a mortuary attendant who gets a little too familiar with her charges; a young girl with a powerful talent and a terrible stepfather; a bratty trick-or-treater; and a devilish trip to the public restrooms. Unfortunately the two framing devices often compete with each other, creating a disjointed narrative flow with confusing interior logic. Compelling characters are introduced in early scenes never to reappear and events that promise further dissection are abandoned in subsequent stories. The film seems to lose its way in the final act too, presenting ambitious ideas that are perhaps too complex for the already expansive narrative.

Similarly, the vigilante clown is both terrifying and compelling but the film occasionally seems unsure about who its bad guys are, presenting cruel punishment for characters we thought we were supposed to be rooting for. One sequence involving a group of army buddies reuniting for a Halloween tradition takes an abhorrent turn into unsettling brutality. It’s easily the most bombastic segment of the bunch with a fascinating monster, but the moral implications of the characters’ actions are hard to stomach and leads to a conclusion that seems to glorify state-sponsored torture. 

Like its titular treats, Bad Candy is perhaps best consumed in small doses. The film includes some incredibly strong – and occasionally poignant – segments, combined with a visual palette that feels like a haunted house with a mean streak. By cutting a segment or two and tightening up it’s core cast of characters it would be a fabulous addition to any Halloween Must-Watch list, but as it stands it simply attempts too much, feeling like a mixed bag – both sweet and sour – that may ultimately lead to a stomach ache. 

⭐⭐⭐

Jenn Adams

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