My notes on Candy Land According to this year’s FrightFest line-up, the most dangerous professions in the world in terms of the likelihood of being stalked, slashed, haunted, mangled or terrorised are the newest – internet influencer/vlogger – and the oldest – sex worker. In writer-director John Swab’s 1990s-set movie, Candy Land is a corner of a truck stop parking lot motel where a gaggle of ‘lot lizards’ (hookers who cater to the drive-through trade) hang out. It’s clearly a dangerous business even before the ritualised murders start, as being raped and beaten and not paid by brutal johns is an incidental risk – but the situation of Sadie (Sam Quartin), Riley (Eden Brolin), Liv (Virginia Rand) and Levi (Owen Campbell) really starts to change when a random guy is found with his throat cut in a toilet stall on a day that a disapproving religious cult led by stern patriarch type Theo (Brad Carter) shuns one of their number – Remy (Olivia Luccardi) – for undisclosed deviation from doctrine, and leaves her to the mercies of the Candy Landers. The not unkind hookers take in the cross-clutching, withdrawn girl and their practical madame Nora (Guinevere Turner) gently insists that she start earning her keep. Levi kills a predator, and his particular patron – Sheriff Rex (William Baldwin) – takes care of things, but the slaughter is far from over.
Candy Land has great characterisations/performances from the believable fringe-dwellers, and the way the tarts-with-hearts and the curiously unjudgmental Remy interact is strangely sweet, with an undercurrent that any lines crossed by either party will lead to disaster. Luccardi is the standout performer here, channelling the sort of weird waif often found in indie horror films of the 1970s – I was even reminded of the very low-rent Evil Come Evil Go, but Luccardi has much more of a Rainbeaux Smith or Mariclare Costello vibe – and venturing into some strange theological areas. A standout scene is Remy’s first trick, which turns out to be with a creepy older priest (Mark Ward) who sports a John Waters tache and false teeth – though the old lech seems scarcely less deviant from actual Christianity as the cult Remy has been shunned by. There is an issue that once the murders really start, the film defaults to a body count plot – the actual meat of the plot is almost wheel-spinning, until we get back to the cult for a kicker of an ending. It has a look which is at once grimy and sparkly, appropriate to the roadside attraction setting – obviously, this is a long way from the cheerful capers of Truck Stop Women, though that worked towards a bloodbath finish too.