Directed by David Slade
Written by Brian Nelson
Starring Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page
A teenage girl raids a man’s home, suspecting he is a pedophile, in order to expose him.
Remember when horror films had a clear victim and villain? Director, David Slade, is clearly against pedophilia, but I’m not sure if the same can be said about sadomasochistic behavior. The film focuses on a 14-year-old girl who meets a suspected predator in a chat room and ultimately entraps him. The film raises some morally conflicted issues, at least it did for me. Pedophilia is worse than necrophilia in my opinion. I don’t believe anyone would pity a child predator, but what if he’s never hurt anyone or followed through with his underage compulsions? Hard Candy asks these questions and raises many more.
Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page are brilliant in this cat-in-mouse horror thriller. Wilson portrays, Jeff, a charming photographer that meets 14-year-old Hayley (Page) in a chat room. The two agree to meet in the safety of the public for their first date. The flirtation is heavy from both sides, an activity that almost made me break out in flop sweat. Jeff invites Hayley to join him back at his apartment, and she agrees. No one mentions having sex anytime before they arrive back at the apartment, but the anticipation of this ugly act literally made me squirm from the comfort of the couch. After reading the synopsis, I was hyper-alert for Hayley to engage her predator trap. When she steps outside the bright-eyed innocence of her teen character and into the real “Hayley”, that’s when this film got its hooks in me.
After chugging some Screwdrivers, the couple begins to get along with less restraint. Wait. Remember, she’s there to lure or entrap Jeff, so be prepared. The next hour of the film is a never-ending torrent of trauma, u-turns, and fake out punches. I was thrilled to make it to the last scene of a film without calling the paper-thin plot. I was guessing until the credits rolled.
It becomes clear that Hayley isn’t who she says she is. Jeff begs for mercy because he would have you believe he isn’t some fiendish monster. Is the pedophile telling the truth? Is Hayley the real monster in this apt tension and release thriller? Hard Candy drives the viewer through several twists and plunging drop-offs before it settles on the truth. I watch a lot of films and I can call a Chekov’s gun within the opening moments; that’s not a back door brag, that’s simply a statement about the volume I watch. It’s also a sad statement about lazy-ass storytelling.
When Jeff and Hayley take the masks off, their real images’ will drop your jaw. I had to flip-flop several times, reneging on my assumptions of guilt and moral superiority. There are few horror films I would rate as perfect, and this is now among that top-tier of film making excellence. Don’t watch this if you’re a wuss. You will regret it.