Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hard Candy

Hard Candy; Thriller, USA, 2005; D: David Slade, S: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Jeff, a 32-year old photographer, has an alluring online chat with a 14-year old girl, Hayley. They meet at a candy store and he persuades her to visit his desolated home. He shows her his photos, but she mixes a drug in his drink and makes him unconscious. When he wakes up, he is tied up to a chair and Hayley tells him she will punish him for being a pedophile. He denies the charges, but she finds nude photos of underage girls in his safe. She then ties him up to the table and castrates him. He manages to escape and find her on the roof. However, Hayley tells him she knows he was at least an accessory in crime when his friend Aaron killed a girl, Donna. Promising to remove all the pedophile evidence after his death, Jeff complies and hangs himself at her command.

An independent film that stirred up quite some controversies, "Hard Candy" is one of those bitter nightmare films that you want to see only once and never again, yet it is a clever and stylish little thriller that openly speaks about the taboo topic of pedophilia whereas the director David Slade and screenwriter Brian Nelson lead a refreshing inversion of the typical 'predator-lures-his-prey-in-a-trap' scheme, where the tables are switched and this time the prey actually traps the predator. The suspension is built slowly, with the 'kammerspiel' atmosphere since the 14-year old Hayley and the the 32-year old, trapped Jeff are practically the only two protagonists in the minimalistic story, whereas the two main actors who play them are in top notch shape. Even though some critics were turned off by the basic concept and complained about sadism, one-sided perspective and a forced message, "Hard Candy" forces the viewer to think about some situations in life, mostly if one evil can justify another evil, which was done right, even though it can not be for everyone's taste in this unpleasant format. Still, it's a quality psychological thriller, whereas Hayley's omnipotence can even be symbolically interpreted that she was only Jeff's consciousness that finally started to haunt him after all the wrong things he did.


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