“You never know what tricks are in your treats,” says one colorful character in filmmaker Scott B. Hansen’s Bad Candy, which had its world premiere at the Frightening Ass Picture Festival. And it’s a statement that the film takes to heart. You never know what you’ll get with Bad Candy, whether it’s sweets or coins.
Bad Candy, penned by Hansen and Desiree Connell, is set on Halloween night in a small town as DJs Chilly Billy (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) and Paul (Gremlins Zach Galligan) tell eerie stories about the region. What follows is an excellent, if imperfect, horror anthology that lives and breathes Halloween, with various gory tales and one terrifying clown who appears throughout and will make your costume makeup run.
Believe me when I say that this clown is the polar opposite of Trick ‘r Treat’s adorable Halloweenie Sam. If I saw this fool standing on the side of the road with a “play with me” sign, I would run him over.
However, the devil clown and Sam are more alike than they look.
Hansen’s picture draws significantly from Trick’ r Treat, nearly to the point of being overly obvious. Both involve a mysterious, costumed figure who appears in and out of many stories. Both films contain stories about respecting Halloween laws and the repercussions of ignoring them (each film has an early scene with naughty kids grabbing more than the recommended quantity of Candy on the front steps and discovering it isn’t that sweet). And, of course, both have a deliciously eerie Halloween atmosphere.
Bad Candy is one of those movies that, no matter the season, whether it’s raining, snowing, or your home is being swept away with you in it like Dorothy, all you have to do is put it on, and you’ll feel as if you’re being wrapped up in the arms of the Great Pumpkin himself. If one department on Bad Candy deserves special recognition, it is the whole production design crew. This is not like other horror anthologies that have attempted and failed to capture the eerie atmosphere of Halloween. In that regard, the picture nearly meets the high standard set by Trick’ r Treat, with a world entirely overrun by ghouls, goblins, and one awful killer clown. The clown’s lair is a spectacle in and of itself, reminding me of Oogie Boogie’s lair from Nightmare Before Christmas in every aspect, colorful and ominous.
Wayne Anderson’s special makeup effects deserve a round of appreciation as well. Aside from the scary clown thing lurking around—I despise him—picture Hansen’s is full of monsters and maniacs, all of which are beautifully done and had me yelling, “long live practical effects!” One diabolical gargoyle—and one of the most remarkable creatures of the year—appears during the running of the pumpkins. I had to stop and pop my eyeballs back into my head after watching a bunch of people sprint across a hazardous field with pumpkins on their heads. What Hansen and his crew do with the effects in Bad Candy is nothing short of astounding considering the modest production, to the point that the few digital effects, notably in a narrative where a little girl’s imaginative drawings come to life, threaten to cheapen the picture by comparison.
While not every tale in Bad Candy is an outright gorefest, most of them are, and diehard horror lovers will lap up the blood that splatters the screen over and over. This is a wild film in which no taboo is safe. Children are being torn apart. Cute fairies have been squished. There’s even a whole narrative about necrophilia and one mortuary worker’s response to not having a hot date on Halloween. If Trick’ r Treat is the honor roll student, Bad Candy is the wicked twin who has been put up in the attic to keep everyone safe.
We like horror anthologies because they usually include a little bit for everyone, and even if they’re a mixed bag, there’s always at least one Reese’s Cup for every awful Candy Corn. Bad Candy is no exception. Some stories are a delectable bite of gory and mad as Hell fear, but others have a chalky, unsatisfactory emptiness to them. Take a look at yourself, Candy Corn! Most of you will agree that the finest horror anthologies contain four to five stories. Still, Bad Candy stuffs as many morsels as it can into the bag, which undermines many stories since there isn’t enough time to appreciate the flavor before we’re pushed into another story. Because few of Bad Candy’s parts allow for much character development or plot, the bigger and bloodier bits, such as the pumpkin run, stick out the most.
Since the days of masterpieces like Creepshow, horror anthologies have grown more imaginative with their wraparounds—take Scare Package, for example—but Bad Candy falls short here as well. As endearing as Galligan is in the job, neither he nor Taylor are very compelling as our hosts, Chilly Billy and Paul. It doesn’t help that the comedy in Bad Candy, for the most part, feels as forced as the anti-Halloween neighbor mumbling “happy Halloween” when they answer the door. Many anthologies also take their time introducing the stories, but Bad Candy, like Trick’ r Treat, adopts an interconnected style in which each story in the town has minor links. It’s an exciting concept, but Hansen and Connell’s script only manages to offer us hazy ties to each story, making the universe feel more fragmented than if there were just one linking thread.
Bad Candy is that feeling you get when you return home after trick-or-treating and throw all of your Candy on the floor. There’s that one gigantic chocolate bar. A couple of apples. The film has highs that feel like sprinting through the streets past adorned houses in October and lows that feel like sitting over the toilet with a stomach ache after eating too many sweets. It’s far from flawless, but it has enough fascinating stories, laugh-inducing gore, and spookiness to take you to Halloween whenever the urge strikes.