Hard Candy DVD: Review By Dodd

A merciless, creepy psychological thriller with a nice featurette to boot.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A merciless, creepy psychological thriller with a nice featurette to boot.
THE BAD
I suppose the deleted scenes are a tad excessive.
THE FEATURE
Changing technologies call for changing times. This of course includes alterations in cinema. Once something is factored into the routine occurrences of everyday life, it is inevitably reflected in film. Take for example the representation of video games in this year's laughable Stay Alive, or wireless technology in Cellular. One integral part of the world today is the Internet. Despite its popularity, it has surprisingly not become the subject of many films since the dawning of the new millennium. Even horror films have failed to give the postmodern concept a decent stab. However, a title this year has finally utilized Internet technology into a premise with undeniable relentlessness. That picture is Hard Candy.

I think at this point that America is aware of sexual predators, and how they take advantage of the Internet for sick ploys at molesting young girls and boys. Dateline NBC has even capitalized on the horrific sex crimes by hilariously humiliating these obese 40-year-olds on public television. While widely discussed on the television circuit, the subject of pedophilia is sometimes considered too racy for films. Not since Mysterious Skin has a film tackled this issue head-on, while additionally reflecting on Internet as a dangerous playground. While Hard Candy offers a predictable premise, it manages to throw in a few unusual twists making it one of the bolder films this year.

Haley (Ellen Page) is a 14-year-old girl that is clearly experiencing the naivety of growing up. We know this in the first two minutes of the film as she is shown awkwardly stuffing her face with a chocolate concoction in innocent bliss. However, what we don't know is why Haley is enjoying such a delicacy alone in a coffee shop. It turns out she is there to meet Jeff (Patrick Wilson). Jeff and Haley have been corresponding on the Internet and are meeting in person for the first time. While at first this may seem cute, Jeff is actually a photographer in his 30's.

After flattering Haley about her beauty and maturity, Jeff convinces Haley to come back to his house/studio to take a few pictures. While the audience can clearly see the trap being set by the pervert, Haley fails to recognize this. Or does she?

Once at Jeff's house, drinks are poured and the scene is set for an afternoon of...well...whatever arouses the sly sicko. However, what Jeff does not see is the true side of Haley. While he meaninglessly compliments his guest on her maturity as a psychological tactic, Jeff fails to realize that Haley is more mature than she appears, and that the tables are about to turn.

Hard Candy is a game of cat-and-mouse that may be difficult for some to swallow. For sensitive viewers, this may be because of the revealing look at sexual predators. For cinephiles, this may be because of the absurdity of a 14-year-old girl developing an elaborate plan of tact and vengeance. Obviously, people will have their reasons for not digesting this film 100% and it even took me weeks to think through the intricacies of the plot and its strong characters.

So what is the diagnosis? Despite some impossibility in the narrative, Hard Candy is one of the most gripping films this year that dares to cross thresholds that other films dare not cross. It is a tad absurd for a 14-year-old girl to so knowingly carry out the elaborate acts that she does. However, this is not a film that is trying to accurately match real life. In actuality, a teenage girl will fall prey to a manipulative predator. While this is clearly any young person's nightmare, Hard Candy dares to explore the nightmares on the other side of the computer screen. In this case, the victimizer encounters a force more cunning than him, and pays the ultimate price.

While the film has its fair share of plot twists, Hard Candy is a character-driven film through-and-through. Newcomer Ellen Page (also seen this year in X-Men 3) delivers a powerful, two-sided performance as Haley and gives the film the vivacity it needs. This does not go without mentioning Patrick Wilson as the slimeball photographer. What makes his performance winning is his transition from crafty to fearful. In some instances, Wilson even goes so far to convince the audience that he is truly sorry for his actions and deserves release from his sexual sins. Now that is quality acting!
THE EXTRAS
Commentary

This disc contains two packed tracks. The first is with director David Slade and writer Brian Nelson. Slade is particular eager and loquacious on this track. These two contributors of course emphasize the production aspects of the film and discuss the planning of the film. Nelson even offers the occasional elaboration on certain ambiguities in the script. The second track is with stars Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. Since their performances are so strong it seems fitting that these two discuss their time on the film. The result is so-so. Actors tend to ramble aimlessly, but Wilson and Page offer some depth to their characters.

Creating Hard Candy

As far as featurettes go, this one is a gold mine. For anyone complaining about 5-minute, dry specials on DVD's, look to this for redemption. This featurette is so complex that it is broken down into every category of constructing the film from casting to post production to marketing. A must-see!

Controversial Confection

It is clear that the film tackles hard topics, and that is precisely that this brief featurette addresses. The filmmakers admit their pride for creating a film so utterly disturbing and provocative because those are the standards of making an indie film. Without controversy, there is no attention. Sadly, this film performed poorly in the box office. Perhaps it will take off on DVD (wink, wink).

Deleted Scenes

Unfortunately these scenes are just fillers and elaborations on what the film already features. The film stands alone as a nice work by itself, but I suppose some may be interested in seeing what was left on the cutting room floor.
THE VIDEO
2.35:1 Widescreen. The DVD transfer is crisp, and the production design really stands out visually here. Jeff's apartment, where most of the film takes place, is full of striking color combinations and shape structures making this hard candy a piece of eye candy.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Digital. While this isn't blockbuster style, the surround sound is a strong point. Some of the more chilling, psychological moments require undivided attention, and the haunting score on your 5.1 will enhance the experience.
THE PACKAGE
Standard DVD keep case. The original and brilliant poster idea is on the front cover showing Ellen Page standing in a gigantic bear trap.
THE FINAL WORD
Hard Candy is not a film for everyone. It takes the well-known problem of sexual predation and tackles it without hesitation. However, beyond its layer of discomfort, this is a film that delivers the goods from both its genius script and its performances from Wilson and Page. I highly recommend film-lovers to purchase this title, but recommend that anyone rent this. Despite its touchy subject matter, director David Slade discusses a much-avoided subject that needs to be seen. In the end, Hard Candy is not a shiny, happy project, but it gets every aspect of its dark edginess down pat.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

Do you like this review?

Comments