The Big Picture
- The Devil’s Candy is a satanic horror film that perfectly caters to the occult tastes of metalheads, complete with a killer soundtrack.
- The movie’s setting in rural Texas adds to the atmosphere of isolation and horror, with the Hellman family fully embracing their love for the macabre.
- The portrayal of the serial killer, Ray Smilie, is uncomfortably real and grounded, blurring the lines between a horror movie and a true crime case, making for gut-wrenching moments.
Heavy metal and horror have held hands ever since Black Sabbath released the album that would kick off the genre. Sabbath’s first record was defined by a uniquely devilish sound with lyrics of demons and occult forces, all wrapped up with the cover art of a ghoulish figure standing before a creepy, dilapidated house. With that, a worldwide community was born: The community of the metalhead. Ever since, lovers of metal have basked in the glory of horror cinema as the genre of film that celebrates the same things as their music tastes: The creepy, the crawly, the dark, and the macabre. Fitting it is then, that we recommend a great horror movie for this Halloween, hand-crafted for the occult tastes of metalheads: Sean Byrne‘s 2017 satanic-horror banger The Devil’s Candy.
The Devil’s Candy tells the tale of a struggling painter and his family moving to a picturesque farmhouse in the isolated fields of rural, bible-thumping Texas. This young, hip family drives out to their new home while blasting out to the headbanging thrash metal track “Killing Inside” by the Cavalera Conspiracy, unaware of the nightmare that awaits them. As the painter, played by Ethan Embry, tries to work on his corporate commissions to pay the bills, he soon begins to fall into deep, dark trances, unwillingly creating satanic masterpieces of macabre brilliance as he drags the brush under the control of a demonic force. Meanwhile, a threatening stranger, seemingly connected to the sinister paintings that emerge from the protagonist’s trances, nefariously stalks the painter and his family with murderous intent. The plot of The Devil’s Candy is wonderfully unique, and its execution is handled with care, flare, and a killer soundtrack, making it the perfect horror film for any metalhead’s Halloween movie night.
Rural Texas is the perfect backdrop for this macabre tale, as the endlessly stretching fields of wheat and corn that surround the family’s home lend a strong sense of isolation to the film. With every form of connection to the outside world requiring a ride in the family’s old banger of a car, they are effectively all alone at night, left to fend for themselves against what may lurk in the shadows. This is all a sweet deal to our protagonists at first though, as the family, devilishly named the Hellmans, enjoy the metalness of it all.
In the vein of a more grounded Addams Family, the Hellmans are lovers of the macabre, rocking out to thrash metal all day while trying to make a living off the dark arts found in the father’s paintings. They scoff at the images of cute and cuddly teddy bears that line the daughter’s new bedroom, promising to paint over them with something suitably more satanic as soon as possible. The father’s financial need to create clean, corporate paintings of butterflies as commissions for a local bank is akin to torture for him. The Hellmans lovingly greet and bid farewell to each other by flying the devil’s horns, and Kirk Hammett of Metallica fame is the patron saint of the Hellman’s household.
Like all metalheads, the Hellmans are lovers of macabre tales and arts. But they are also sweet, caring, and loving towards each other and make for quite the wholesome family unit for the film to subsequently torture. It doesn’t take long for that torture to begin either, as the film needs to be fast-paced at a short runtime of one hour and 18 minutes. Soon after moving into their new home, Father Helman begins falling into dreamlike trances, where his body is guided by unseen forces to create what will become his masterpiece — The Devil’s Candy, a giant shrine of a horrifying angel of hell consuming the screaming souls of children. (Metal AF, amirite?!)
It’s not long after the creation of this devilish masterpiece that the Hellmans are thrown into a hellish nightmare of uncomfortably crude and (almost) believable proportions: A crazed serial killer of children called Ray Smilie, seemingly possessed by the same satanic forces as Father Helman, begins harassing and stalking the family in an attempt to take their daughter. Mr. Ray is also incredibly metal, as he quite literally kicks off the film by sitting in his bedroom playing a dark, dooming riff on his Flying V electric guitar to drown out the “voices” that command him. Everything about The Devil’s Candy simply oozes metal, plain and simple.
‘The Devil’s Candy’s Serial Killer Makes The Film Uncomfortably Grounded
If the plot and characters of The Devil’s Candy carry a Metallica or a Slayer sensibility to them, then Mr. Ray is definitely more of a Cannibal Corpse kind of guy, as he embodies the much grimier, dirtier, and disturbing imagery of the Buffalo Death Metal outfit. Ray Smilie is masterfully brought to life by the talented actor Pruitt Taylor Vince, who succeeds at making this satanically possessed soul come across as uncomfortably believable, crossing the line between a grindhouse horror movie and a real-life true crime case. To anyone who has engaged with true-crime documentaries covering the United STates’ long history of serial killers, Ray just feels so real, as both his backstory and his personality reflect that of many real-life cases. Ray is a mentally unstable man raised in a strictly Catholic household who suffers with supposed “hallucinations” of an entity Ray refers to as “Him” — a sinister voice that commands Ray to commit atrocious crimes towards children.
Pruitt plays Ray as incredibly shy, socially inept, and awkward instead of your usual brooding, obvious threat. He speaks with the innocent high pitch of a child and comes across as weak and fearful. Upon first contact with Ray, the Hellmans barely even register him as a concern, let alone a threat, as they almost pity his beaten-dog demeanor. That pity is quickly replaced by terror though, as Ray begins to become more of a murderous menace as the film moves along. No spoilers here, but the film genuinely gets quite extreme with its depictions of Ray’s murderous activity, and the dirty kitchen sink realism of these scenes makes for some truly gut-wrenching moments.
A Middle Finger to Satanic Panic in ‘The Devil’s Candy’
Finally, one of the most vindicating elements of The Devil’s Candy, particularly for the metalhead crowd, is how it throws a big fat middle finger at the “Satanic panic” era. As a brief summary: The deep south of the ’70s and ’80s saw a surge in persecution of youth counter-culture, particularly of the macabre variety (metalheads, Goths, etc.), due to the wide belief that Satan himself was finding his way into American teenagers’ hearts through their music and movie tastes. Absolutely ludicrous through today’s lens, but sadly many people were prosecuted and pursued both personally and legally for merely enjoying metal music or a violent comic book or two, and The Devils Candy feels like a power fantasy that vindicates those who suffered through this, all the while set in the backdrop of Texas, where Satanic panic struck the worst.
Ray is almost an embodiment of what Satanic panic feared: A seemingly good-hearted, well-inclined boy who was possessed by the forces of evil to serve Satan, taken away from his god-fearing family through what was heavily implied to be the sound of heavy metal. But then come the Hellmans: A happy, loving, wholesome family of artists with a lust for life and a strong, healthy family bond. The Hellmans are all of this while being everything that the Satanic panic would deem “evil.” The Hellmans are the film’s middle finger to the Satanic Panic, and their ultimate standoff against Satan’s evil vindicates the good people who were wrongly painted as devils for their music tastes.
Ultimately, The Devil’s Candy is heavy metal in every sense: Its plot is metal, and the characters that occupy it are metalheads. Its soundtrack is all metal. Its themes, imagery, and even its hero’s choice of weapon for the film’s final showdown are all metal as hell. It’s an awesome film for it and a must-watch for any metalhead this Halloween season!