It’s October, and that means one thing: the sweet and sickly pumpkin-spiced scent of quickly cobbled together horror movies is in the air again. Enter Scott Hansen and Desiree Connell’s Bad Candy, a horror that revolves around two radio hosts— Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Gremlins’ star Zach Galligan—working late one fateful Halloween in their sleepy hometown of New Salem.
Bad Candy is no ordinary scary movie: it’s an anthology-style horror film, made up of lots of spooky little tales in one, larger ‘frame’ narrative. It’s a tried and tested horror format, and fans might remember similar classics such as Creepshow, Tales from the Hood, Campfire Tales, or more recently Netflix’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Characters huddle around a campfire—or in this case, a recording booth—and rattle off spine chilling tales that they swear are based on true events. Inevitably, the tales begin to infringe on the real world, and the scary stories become all too believable.
Bad Candy‘s story tellers are the hosts of a small-town radio station: “Chilly” Billy (Corey Taylor) and Paul (Zach Galligan), horror aficionados who burn the midnight oil one all Hallow’s Eve by recounting horror stories from the area. It’s got everything the spooky season demands: scary clowns, masked slashers, creepy morgues, scantily clad costumes, and lashings of jack o’lanterns. As the evening wears on, and the tales become more and more gruesome, the veil between this world and the other gets thinner, and the line between fiction and reality also becomes disturbingly blurred.
As the danger mounts for Billy and Paul, it slowly becomes clear that Bad Candy is also at risk of falling into the same pitfalls that all anthology horrors are prone to. These are unavoidable when you chop up a feature length film into short little parts. For instance, it becomes much harder to generate that slow burning suspense that makes high-quality horror so nail biting. Anthologies also tend to run on too long, as a result of trying to cram in too many smaller plots. Because the stories themselves are so brief, their characters don’t get any proper development, and the audience doesn’t have time to build a connection to them before they get sliced and diced. We often don’t get to know the protagonists in the larger frame narrative either, so we’re equally unbothered when it’s ultimately their turn on the cutting block. Bad Candy runs into all of these issues, and then some.
Look – anthology horrors are cool; especially when the tales are all joined by a unifying theme or story. Think, for example, of the witches curse that connects all of Netflix’s Fear Street films. And while the cinematography in Bad Candy is great; the production values are awesome; and it’s a real treat to see practical effects well executed; there is nothing clearly connecting the stories, and several potential options jostle confusingly for attention. The editing doesn’t make sense, and there are whiplash inducing shifts in tone between campy comedy and what seems like a genuine attempt to be frightening. The technical side absolutely lets it down in places, and the jump scares aren’t punctuated properly in the sound design (which makes it more comical than frightening when something ooky-spooky happens in the background).
Most unforgivably of all though, it just isn’t that scary. Taylor and Galligan’s convincing performances redeem Bad Candy somewhat, but there’s no fixing bad writing. In the end, Bad Candy is just like that: it’s sweet for a moment, but leaves you hungry, queasy, and wishing you’d opted for something a little more substantial.
There’s always a slew of new horror films around Halloween, and they all have a choice. They can either try to get creative, or they can bank on the same safe scares that have been earning producers coin for decades. Bad Candy feels like it wants to be original, but it never quite takes the necessary risks, and some of its narrative inspiration—the razor blade in the candy tale, for instance—is practically archaic. Bad Candy tries to fit too much in, and it all suffers as a result. Perhaps if they’d tried to juggle less elements, in a shorter run time, they could have executed (no pun intended) a better end result.
Bad Candy never really finds its groove. It looks good, but its flashy production values and star appearances don’t compensate for a messy plot. The lack of pacing makes Bad Candy one note and boring, and the storytelling will leave you with a toothache. There’ll be no shortage of horrors released this Halloween, so spare yourself the dentist bill and hold out for a better offer.
Bad Candy is on DVD and Digital 4 October from Kaleidoscope Entertainment
Words by Eli Dolliver
Support The Indiependent
We’re trying to raise £200 a month to help cover our operational costs. This includes our ‘Writer of the Month’ awards, where we recognise the amazing work produced by our contributor team. If you’ve enjoyed reading our site, we’d really appreciate it if you could donate to The Indiependent. Whether you can give £1 or £10, you’d be making a huge difference to our small team.