Movies: Bad Candy (2020)

I love Halloween (I mean, who doesn’t), and I love horror anthologies, especially ones that are based around my favorite holiday. I’ve seen and reviewed most of the best ones for Halloweens past—Trick ‘r Treat, Tales of Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve—but I came across this 2020 film called Bad Candy streaming for free on Tubi, and I thought I’d give it a whirl, though to be honest, I didn’t even realize it was an anthology film until I was ten or fifteen minutes into it (and no, I don’t usually read the synopsis before I watch a movie, why do you ask?).

I also didn’t know before going in that the film featured the seemingly ageless Zach Galligan (of Gremlins and Waxwork fame) and Corey Taylor (of Slipknot fame). I am a fan of Gremlins and Waxwork, and not so much of Slipknot, though I have to say, I kind of wish those guys’ two characters’ roles would gave been expanded more, rather than them just being part of the wraparound story.

Written and directed by Scott B. Hansen and Desiree Connell, Bad Candy does have some fun moments, and at times exudes that magical Halloween ambience we all look for in our spooky October movies, but unfortunately it doesn’t come anywhere close to dethroning Trick ‘r Treat as the definitive Halloween anthology film, and definitely won’t be earning a place in the annual Halloween movie rotation, at least at my haunted house. It’s not terrible, but it’s a bit messy and disjointed, with too many unfocused ideas and little thematic coherence. Plus I have to admit that I’m way over scary clowns; even before all those silly urban legends and It: Chapter One brought them back into the spotlight with a vengeance, I thought they were played out.

Zach Galligan plays Paul, a radio producer, and Corey Taylor plays Chilly Billy, a DJ at 66.6FM. In a framework borrowed from another, much better anthology film, 2015’s A Christmas Horror Story (in which the DJ was unforgettably played by William Shatner), the DJs are doing a radio show on Halloween night, relating a series of stories that we see unfold around the town of New Salem. I have to say, though, that at first, it wasn’t all that clear (to me, at least) that the two guys were telling these stories, because it just seemed like it was jumping back and forth from Paul and Chilly Billy in the studio, to other random people doing other shit, and I wasn’t certain initially what the storylines had to do with one another.

Anyway, much like Trick ‘r Treat, there’s a character in the movie (who is an evil clown named Bad Candy, though I didn’t know that until the end credits) whose job it is to evidently punish shitheads who don’t like Halloween or try to ruin Halloween for everyone else. One of the first people to get it is a pre-teen little fuck-knuckle who, despite having dressed up as a vampire and going out trick-or-treating, is being a real douche about things, muttering how everything sucks, smashing everyone’s pumpkins, and taking all the candy from those houses who leave bowls outside for kids to just take one piece. Just stay home and jerk off next year, kid, if you hate it so much. Anyway, Bad Candy picks the brat up and kinda extracts his soul, putting it in a cute little vampire figurine that he then places in his lair, which is full of other such tokens. I thought this was actually a cool idea: a Halloween demon who traps assholes into little tchotchkes as punishment, where they scream in agony for eternity. Unfortunately, this concept is never revisited, and some of the stories don’t even have Bad Candy doing the reckoning or killing, even though I thought that was going to be a throughline to link all the stories.

Anyway, the first of the tales is about a Halloween-lovers club who has one member—a little girl dressed like a witch­—with an abusive redneck dad who inexplicably runs a guy over in his truck without realizing it, an event which is not referred to again. The drunken hick hates Halloween, and also his daughter has a power that anything she draws will come to life, so she draws a fairy and a cute, fierce little monster (the monster puppet is actually one of the best things about the movie, incidentally; I kinda wish the little guy had been in it more, and I actually wouldn’t mind having a stuffed plush of it). Her fat chode of a dad destroys them, though, until the girl finally draws her dead mom, who appears all scary and pissed off, and slurps out the dad’s innards in showers of extremely dodgy-looking CGI blood.

There’s also a story about a creepy old fuck who puts razors in candy bars and cupcakes to give out to kids; another one about a drug dealer at a party who then gets killed in a disgusting public bathroom by someone wearing a devil mask; one about a lonely girl at that same party who gets called in to her work at the morgue and has sex with a fresh corpse, which for some reason causes all the other corpses to zombify and attack her, although maybe it’s just the LSD she got from the aforementioned drug dealer; yet another girl at the party, dressed like a cop, who gets assaulted and threatened by her shithead ex-boyfriend until Bad Candy pulls him apart like fresh bread; and one about an Uber (sorry, “FreeRyde”) driver dressed like a vampire who collects terrible people he picks up so that he and his group of military veteran buddies (all dressed like classic monsters, plus one that can turn into a batlike creature because of some government experimentation when he was in the service) can hunt them for sport.

While some of these stories were fine and entertaining enough on their own, and interconnected in several ways with some characters overlapping, I thought the repeating motif of the piece was going to be Bad Candy, as the defender of the holiday, gruesomely fucking up people who were being shitty on Halloween. In the first story, with the little girl and her hillbilly dad, Bad Candy didn’t do the killing himself, but he did reward the little girl afterward by laying out an epic Halloween tableau on her lawn and giving her a bunch of candy. The clown also warned one little girl not to eat the candy or cupcakes from the nasty old guy who put razor blades in them (before slaughtering said old guy), and he also saved the cop costume woman from her shitbag rapist friend.

But then there was a bunch of confusing shit in there too, like why did the drug dealer get killed by some random dude that didn’t have anything to do with Bad Candy? I was under the impression that the punishment angle was going to be the connective tissue of the movie, but to be honest the drug dealer, while a bit of a sleaze, didn’t seem like that bad of a guy, though I guess he was giving people free drugs on Halloween that would fuck them up (hence another meaning for “bad candy,” I suppose). Still doesn’t explain why Bad Candy didn’t get him too, though. And the necrophile girl, while gross, was still kinda sympathetic, and wasn’t really hurting anybody either, and didn’t really deserve what happened to her, which also didn’t involve the clown. And the story about the four veterans hunting some of the assholes from earlier (plus a bunch of random assholes who hadn’t appeared in the movie before) didn’t make much sense either, since now they were punishing people instead of the clown, and some of the people they were chasing down didn’t really seem to have done much of anything bad.

The last tale, about a group of ghost hunters who explore a haunted mansion where a boy died in a fire on Halloween some time ago, ties back in with the frame story about Zach Galligan’s character, but by that point I had tuned out a bit, so I didn’t really catch all the details.

As I said, this isn’t really a bad movie; there is some good stuff in here. I liked the Halloween avenger angle and the interwoven stories idea (even though that’s pretty much what Trick ‘r Treat did), but I just wish it had been done with a more coherent structure and more clearly defined parameters. If you’re going to introduce Bad Candy as a demon who punishes people who are being dicks and transfers their souls into little Halloween figures, then roll with that; don’t just show a cool idea like that once and abandon it. And the stories could be pretty much the same as they were, just with Bad Candy more integrated into the action; in some of the stories, like the one with the drug dealer, the one with the necrophile, and the one with the veterans, I don’t think he showed up at all, except maybe to glower menacingly at someone. It just seemed a bit muddled thematically.

On the plus side, some of the creature effects and practical gore were quite good, especially considering how low this movie’s budget obviously was. Honestly, I wish they had done the whole thing with practical effects, because the CGI mostly looks awful. But some of the shots, particularly in the first story about the little witch girl and the Halloween-lovers club, were nicely lit and had a really spooky, old-school Halloween feel to them, which I very much enjoyed. If you like Halloween anthologies and are looking for a newer one to check out, I wouldn’t warn you away from this one; just don’t expect too much and you might extract a few treats out of it.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

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