Directed by David Slade; Written by Brian Nelson
There are few horror films that could be specifically described as ‘ball cringing’. Of that narrow list, director David Slade’s Hard Candy probably tops the bunch.
Conceptually, this film is quite unique. Fourteen year old Hayley Stark meets the thirty-ish Jeff Kolhver at a coffee shop three weeks following their meeting on the internet. Jeff is a successful upscale photographer, while Hayley is a, soon-to-be, ninth grader with aspirations of attending medical school. Initially, there are some creepy sexual vibes between the two as they both retire to Jeff’s apartment. What follows is a rather disturbing role reversal from the traditional idea of the internet predator.
The superb performances of Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson create a strong ‘one on one’ dynamic which allows the tension to escalate with only a slight change in the composure of one of the characters. This is a result of much of the film focusing solely on the character’s emotions.
The amount of tension and cringing that results from this film would lead one to believe that this is a gore horror film; however, this is far from reality. There are very few shots that even depict blood or other bodily fluids, barring a scrape on Page’s head. While there is gore present, it is often inferred and out of the shot. The cringing sensation is the result of the gross amount of tension built.
As is often the case with films of this nature, there is no substantial plot or backstory. Though the audience is cringing and seemingly engaged, it is not the result of an emotional connection to the character; rather, it is out of some since of situational or sympathy pain. Throughout the film, pieces of backstories are offered and discarded with a high frequency. The audience leaves the film without a clear understanding of the majority of the character’s motives. Without enabling the audience to connect to the film, ultimately, they are not going to care about it.
Hard Candy features a unique plot, superb acting, and goreless cringing; however, it fails to provide any sort of deeper plot.