REVIEW: Candy Land (2022)

dir. John Swab

At a US truck stop a community of sex workers spend their days servicing Johns and getting by. They’re a close knit group, with strong friendships, romances, dreams and aspirations. None of them are ashamed or resigned to their situation, but equally neither do they fully embrace it, existing somewhere in-between out of necessity. However when Remy (Olivia Luccardi) – a naive young girl cast out from her super-strict pseudo-Christian cult – joins their ranks things start to break down, and violence erupts all around them.

There’s a freewheeling social realism to the first half of director Swab’s latest which beautifully off-sets the tactility of the environment against rich and empathic characters. Here relationships are shown in delicate intimacy without ever flinching from the daily cycle of sweaty truck cabs, unwashed dildos and the threat of sexual assault with which this community lives.

But from a midpoint moment – which surely ranks as one of the grossest of recent years – the film leans more into stabby serial killer beats, drawing down on Southern gothic vibes from the school of Kalifornia (1993).

It’s not that this second element is bad (the kills are well – ahem -executed) but it’s just less interesting, the nuanced character work slowly pushed through a meat grinder of more traditional murder tropes that leave one feeling like the gentle observational rhythms of the first act have been pulped by a rather blunt hammer.

© Tim Coleman


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