“You never know what tricks are in your treats”…
…So utters one wise character in director Scott B. Hansen’s Bad Candy, which made its world premiere at the Frightening Ass Film Festival this past Halloween, and it’s a line that the film takes to heart. With Bad Candy, you never quite know what you’re going to get, treats, or pennies.
The appropriately titled Bad Candy, written by Hansen and Desiree Connell, takes place in a small town on Halloween night as DJ’s Chilly Billy (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) and Paul (Gremlins Zach Galligan) tell scary stories about the town. What follows is an inspired though flawed horror anthology which lives and breathes Halloween, and features an assortment of grisly tales, plus one incredibly frightening clown appearing all throughout that will make your costume makeup run.
Believe me when I tell you that this clown is the exact opposite of the adorably Halloweenie Sam from Trick ‘r Treat. If I were to see this clown standing on the side of the street holding a “play with me” sign, I would run him the hell over! Don’t fuck with me on Halloween, clown.
The devil clown and Sam are more similar than they first appear though.
Hansen’s film borrows heavily from Trick ‘r Treat, almost to the point of being a little too noticeable. Both feature a strange, costumed creature popping in and out of different tales. Both feature stories that deal with obeying the laws of Halloween…and the consequences in breaking them (each film, in fact, has an early scene with bad kids taking more than the suggested amount of candy on the front steps and finding it isn’t so sweet). And both, of course, have a delightfully spooky Halloween vibe.
Bad Candy is one of those films that, no matter what time of year it is, whether it’s sunny, snowing, or your house is being blown away with you in it like Dorothy, all you need to do is pop it in and you’ll feel like you’re being wrapped up in the arms of the Great Pumpkin itself. If any one department on Bad Candy deserves heaps of praise, it’s the entire production design team. This film isn’t like other horror anthologies that have tried and failed to capture the spooky spirit of Halloween. In that sense, the film nearly reaches the impressive bar set by Trick ‘r Treat, with a world that feels completely taken over by ghouls, goblins and one nasty killer clown. The clown’s lair in and of itself is a sight, reminding me of Oogie Boogie’s lair from Nightmare Before Christmas, colorful and foreboding in every way.
The special makeup effects by Wayne Anderson also deserve a severed hand round of applause. Aside from the ominous clown creature stalking about—I hate him—Hansen’s film is full of all kinds of monsters and maniacs, all of which are well done and had me screaming “long live practical effects”! One devilish gargoyle of a thing—and one of the coolest creature of the year—shows up during a segment which I’m referring to as the running of the pumpkins, in which a group of people are forced to run through a deadly field with pumpkins on their heads, and I had to pause to pop my eyeballs back in my head. What Hansen and his team accomplishes with the effects in Bad Candy is nothing short of stunning considering the small production, to a point where the rare digital effects, especially in a story where a young girl’s fantastical drawings come to life, threaten to cheapen the film by comparison.
Say it again: Long live practical effects!
While not every story in Bad Candy is an outright gore fest, most are, and hardcore horror fans will drink up the blood which splashes the screen over and over again. This is an outrageous film, where no taboo is safe. Kids are ripped apart. Cute fairies are squashed. And there’s even an entire story surrounding necrophilia and one morgue worker’s solution to not having a hot date on Halloween. If Trick ‘r Treat is the honor roll student, Bad Candy is the evil twin locked away in the attic to keep everyone safe.
Why we love horror anthologies is that most offer a little something for everyone, and even when they’re a mixed bag, there’s still at least one Reese’s Cup for every nasty Candy Corn. Bad Candy is no different. Some stories are a delicious bite of bloody and demented as all Hell terror, whereas others have more of a chalky, unsatisfying nothingness of a taste. Looking at you, Candy Corn! Most of you might agree that the best horror anthologies contain four-five stories, but Bad Candy drops as many morsels as it can into the bag, which hurts many of the stories, because there’s so little time to savor the flavor before we’re being thrown into another tale. Very few of Bad Candy’s segments allow for much of any character development or even much story, so it’s the bigger and bloodier bits, like the pumpkin run, that stand out the most.
Horror anthologies have gotten more creative with their wraparounds since the days of classics like Creepshow—take Scare Package for example--but Bad Candy misses the mark here as well. As charming as Galligan is in the role, neither he nor Taylor are all that interesting as our hosts Chilly Billy and Paul. It doesn’t help that the comedy throughout most of Bad Candy feels about as forced as the anti-Halloween neighbor muttering “happy Halloween when they answer the door. Many anthologies also ease into the stories more, taking the time to introduce them, whereas Bad Candy, like Trick ‘r Treat, follows an interwoven format, where each story in the town shares small connections. It’s a neat idea, but Hansen and Connell’s script only manages to give us vague connections to each tale, making the world feel more disjointed than one connective thread.
Bad Candy is like that moment when you get home from trick or treating and dump your candy on the floor. There’s that one mega-sized chocolate bar. An apple or two. And one mother fucker even gave you a toothbrush. The film goes through highs of October vibes that feel like running through the streets past decorated houses, and lows like sitting over the toilet with a stomach ache after you’ve eaten too much sweets. It’s a far from perfect film, but with enough entertaining tales, laugh-inducing gore and spookiness to make it a solid transport to Halloween whenever the mood strikes.
By Matt Konopka