In a couple of years time, you’ll be forgiven for getting Bad Candy mixed up with Trick ‘r’ Treat or Tales of Halloween and struggling to recall which nasty Halloween-related anecdote was in which sparkly, sinister Halloween-themed anthology movie. The frame – DJ Chilly Billy (Corey Taylor) and sidekick Vince (Zach Galligan) yarning away on Psychotronic FM as entwined stories unfold in the small town of New Salem – recalls the William Shatner segements of another holiday-themed omnibus, A Christmas Horror Story. That said, for all its familiarity, this exercise in thrice-told tales works pretty well.
Part of the point of these tales is that you’ve heard them before in different variants, and every time they’re trotted out they coalesce more as whatever we decide to call urban legends when they take place away from an urb. Here, we have the wicked stepfather and the girl (Riley Sutton) who can bring her drawings to life (a sustained homage to John Carl Buechler’s Ghoulies/Troll effects style) … the nasty old man (Bill Pacer) who puts razorblades in cupcakes to give to the kids, the ‘I’m a nice guy’ bro who turns home invader and would-be rapist after his latest pass is rebuffed (in an on-the-nose touch, he’s wearing a MAGA hat but it’s possible that he’s in Halloween costume as a Trump supporter rather than actually being one) by a resourceful final girl type (Alexandra Lucchesi … a nurse in the morgue left alone with a handsome corpse after ingesting some mind-altering substances … a reinvention of the Universal monsters quartet as war veteran vigilantes (the Mummy has a particular surprise to spring) with Dracula (Kenneth Trujillo) taking point as an Uber-style late-night driver who has to put up with a lot (‘I’ve always wanted to meet a pimp,’ he deadpans) … and business with a spirit of vengeance clown who stalks through the stories, meting out gory slapstick justice as needed, and a burned-out old house with an intimate connection to one of the gang as PFM.
Directed by Scott B. Hansen (The Possession Experiment), from a script by Desiree Connell (who rates a ‘co-director’ credit) from stories by Hansen, Connell and Thacker Hoffman. This is a crowded film, with stories that bleed into each other Short Cuts style, but there’s a coherent overall look, with an emphasis on 1980s-ish practical effects (you can imagine the vintage Fangoria spread). Nevertheless, it has a streak of ruthlessness that makes it more than a simple retro exercise – that MAGA hat and the Not All Men horror aren’t the only touches that root it in a 21st century divided America.
It’s also a Your Daily Dracula selection …