Candy Corn is the new film from director Josh Hasty. The film stars Caleb Thomas, Jaime Gallagher, Madison Russ, Matt O’Neill, and Nate Chaney, as well as the familiar horror faces of Tony Todd, PJ Soles, Pancho Moler, and Courtney Gaines. Prior to directing Candy Corn, Hasty helmed Honeyspider (2014) and a “making of” feature for Rob Zombie’s 31, titled In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31 (2016).
The story of Candy Corn concerns a group of Midwestern bullies who have a yearly tradition of playing a prank on one of the locals, Jacob, who is an employee of a mysterious carnival’s sideshow. The time frame of the movie places the characters as young adults who, this year, take their prank too far, resulting in Jacob’s death. One of the sideshow employees, Dr. Death, resurrects the victim, and Jacob becomes a vengeance-seeking killer, giving the film somewhat of a Pumpkinhead (1988) angle.
One of the film’s highlights is its use of Halloween atmosphere. A lot of the scenes are full of cut-out paper decorations like jack-o-lanterns, cats, skeletons, etc. Aside from the Halloween décor, the production genuinely feels like October and fall. Set during the 1970s, Hasty and team nail the time period. It all gives the movie a big, enjoyable dose of nostalgia and sentimentality, which obviously works in the film’s favor. However, the downside to all of this is that it feels like we have seen it all before.
For the most part, the cast does a decent enough job of portraying their characters, but the performances range from okay to bad, with one actor’s line delivery being so horrendous that his character is not convincing in the least. Unfortunately, the aforementioned cast of recognizable horror actors is barely used, as each of their roles are little more than cameos. Out of the familiar names, PJ Soles and Pancho Moler are the most fun to watch, and I barely saw the point in having Tony Todd appear in the film at all.
Usually I have a difficult time feeling invested in characters who are as mean spirited as the ensemble seen here, and the story of Candy Corn proves to be no different. Other than Madison Russ’s character, the protagonists have very little redeeming qualities. The film would benefit by having someone more likable that the audience could root for.
The kills are interesting and pretty bloody at times. Overall, I enjoyed the villain, and I would like to see him appear in more movies, becoming a franchise star. However, I’m not sure what the direction of future installments will be, as the ending gives the impression that Candy Corn could become a sort of anthology series. The jack-o-lantern mask Jacob wears is effective, but most of his scenes in kill-mode hit too close to those featuring Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween films.
Director John Hasty is obviously inspired by Zombie’s work, and it is almost to the point that Candy Corn feels like a carbon copy. For example, just take a look at Sky Elobar’s character, Gus, who seems like he was ripped from the pages of a Zombie screenplay. And the comparisons don’t end with characterizations and set pieces. Over the years, horror fans have had a lot to say about Annie’s death scene in Zombie’s Halloween II. The sequence has widely been discussed as being “meaningful”, “sad”, etc. While watching Candy Corn, I felt like Hasty was attempting to hit those same notes with every kill.
The marketing efforts for Candy Corn have been top notch, from the glorious poster art to the awesome trailer. Going in, I was hoping to find a new Halloween staple that I would want to put on heavy rotation alongside other seasonal classics such as Halloween (1978), Hocus Pocus (1993), and Trick ‘r Treat (2007). Unfortunately, the film falls short in that regard.
Regardless, Hasty has crafted a movie that is worth a watch. I have not seen Hasty’s previous work, but he obviously has talent as a director. In the end, I enjoyed Candy Corn enough that I would watch sequels. Hopefully, in the future, Hasty will evolve as a filmmaker and begin showcasing more of his own style.
Candy Corn is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming services beginning September 17.