That description is a bit misleading. There is a demonic sort of presence but it’s on the backburner to a much more human threat, and the film never feels like a haunted-house tale. The film in fact wonderfully avoids the trappings of a typical ghost or possession film, instead eschewing for a more home-invasion source of horror. The satanic elements are at play, pulling strings and manipulating characters but any supernatural elements are actually quite subtle.
The main characters are a family of metalheads, well the father and daughter are metalheads, the mother isn’t. Because of this, the film has a heavy metal soundtrack which of course works well for this sort of film. The antagonist of the film is the seemingly mentally challenged son of an old couple who lived in the house before the metal family moved in. The antagonist is played wonderfully by Pruitt Taylor Vince, a character actor who you’ll probably recognize without knowing his name. He’s been in over 100 movies but rarely given a starring role. He’s great in The Devil’s Candy, as is everyone else really, except from maybe the art gallery owner side-character who feels like he’s channeling F. Murray Abraham from Inside LLewyn Davis a bit too hard.
The acting is quite good and the family dynamic found in our protagonists is engaging. The cast is more than strong enough to maintain engagement throughout the film’s short hour and 20-minute runtime. There are some intense moments and the film really does feel like it placed a priority on pockets of high intensity, over any small-scale creepiness. There are bursts of brutal grounded horror and outside of those the film makes a few small passes at creepy imagery and tries to establish an unsettling tone, but those didn’t work nearly as well for me. For me, the horror was all centered around Pruitt Taylor Vince’s character, and this horror was made even more effective because The Devil’s Candy got me to genuinely care for the protagonists. The script isn’t great. It gets the job done but it doesn’t feel fresh, it doesn’t feel like there are many new ideas being explored.
Sean Byrne is clearly a very talented director as his execution makes everything work despite being a somewhat trodden territory. He’s definitely a horror director to keep an eye on in my book.