The internet can be an playground for the weird and slightly creepy. Chat rooms ooze with racey sex and perverted come ons. The net has become a roost for predators and prey alike. This carnal haven is laid bare to sickening effect in David Slade’s 2005 minimalist thriller Hard Candy starring Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson.
The film opens to a particularly scandalous conversation in a chat room, where a 14 year-old girl (Haley) and an older guy (Jeff) make the risky decision to meet up for real. After meeting the two decide to head over to Jeff’s abode. While there they make a few bad decisions, including a few screwdrivers. Then without warning Jeff collapses, and wakes up tied to a wheelie chair. The predator has become the prey of the sweet little girl we all assumed was innocent.
As the film progresses the viewer is bombarded with questions of who’s right and who’s wrong. Jeff and Haley become the center of a twisted puzzle of morality that becomes more and more contorted as each minute passes. All leading up to one of the greatest endings in horror history, which for my readers’ sakes I will not disclose.
Hard Candy is the perfect example of a “love it or hate it” movie. The subject matter, and the fact that sexual tension can be shared by a fourteen year old girl and a man in his late twenties disturb several movie goers, but those willing to look past it can truly find an extraordinary movie.
The cinematography and coloring shape the film into one of the most visually appealing in the horror/thriller genre. But what truly makes the film shine is the brilliance in the acting. In one of her earliest major film roles Ellen Page destroys any preconceived notions one might have about young actors. Playing wickedly smart and giving the impression that the viewer may never see the “real” picture turn her performance into one of the best I’ve ever seen. Patrick Wilson’s character puts a twist on pedophilia and brings to mind the image of a wounded wolf. He builds up such a sympathy while simultaneously sending a constant signal of danger and warning. You hate to see him hurt, but you wouldn’t want to be left alone with him either. The fact that these two are essentially the only two people in the movie make for a truly unique experience in a horror film. Where the source of horror is not blood or gore (there is very little of either in this film) or music (there is nine minutes of music in total of a hundred and four minutes of run time) but in the terror found in humanity.
The emotions, reactions, and brutality of these two realistic characters paint a scarier picture for the viewer than most know how to handle. Hard Candy is the living proof of that endlessly popular and overused proverb: “less is more.”