Horror anthologies are deceptively easy to mess up. Although the multi-story structure allows for potentially more experimentation than a typical single-plot film, the implicit danger is that the whole thing will careen off the rails much faster. Sometimes, as with the recent Scare Package, the story feels more cohesive than many non-anthology movies, despite several filmmakers taking part. The Mortuary Collection, meanwhile, makes a case for anthologies devised by a single writer-director. Bad Candy straddles both sides, as it’s the brainchild of Scott B. Hansen and Desiree Connell with an additional story credit for Thacker Hoffman. Tied together by a simple framing device, with every story taking place in the same town — New Salem! — this particular anthology somehow manages to be disjointed, unfocused and utterly disposable all at once.
The framing device, somewhat ripped off from A Christmas Horror Story (itself a far better anthology), sees a couple of radio hosts telling scary stories on Halloween night. As played by Gremlins star Zach Galligan — looking utterly miserable, and understandably so — and Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor, engineer Paul and host Chilly Billy supposedly provide an anchor for the ensuing madness. However, despite the fact that Billy introduces each story, they all quickly blend into one, making it difficult to ascertain which tale is being told at any one time. Furthermore, none of the featured stories makes an impact. They’re all derivative, baggy, badly made and not in the least bit scary. The Bad Candy performances, meanwhile, range from wooden to committed but lack the requisite material to back them up. Galligan and Taylor are the strongest actors in the bunch, so it’s a shame that viewers don’t get to spend more time with them.
The storytelling in Bad Candy has a strange ADD quality to it, almost as though Hansen and Connell are worried they’ll lose momentum if they spend too much time on one story. The focus keeps hopping from location to location, character to character, and with little direction. Meanwhile, the editing is shocking, so abrupt and off-kilter it’s as though the various shots were simply stumbled upon. At 100 minutes, Bad Candy should be the ideal length for an anthology, but it feels equally overlong and rushed. The tone is also disconcertingly serious for such lowbrow material (there’s necrophilia, for one thing). Jokes are lightly scattered throughout, but there aren’t nearly enough of them (metal twins meeting girly twins is a standout moment, brushed past all too quickly). Hansen and Connell should’ve had much more fun with their premise, considering that Bad Candy is set during Halloween and features a whole bunch of people in accurately low-rent costumes. This isn’t exactly the sleekest presentation, but it could’ve benefited from being grubbier.
Early on, there’s a cute little critter controlled with impressive puppetry, but the creation is utterly wasted in favor of increasingly dodgy VFX. In fact, it never shows up again, which is galling considering the painstaking detail of the design rivals everything else in the movie. Bad Candy boasts a certain amount of cool practical FX, including some horrifying nails through a character’s foot and blood splattered artfully on a MAGA hat, while the creature design on a giant man-bat and a clown with eerily long fingers is impressive. Mostly, though, Hansen and Connell are overly reliant on fuzzy CGI for no discernible reason. The titular clown — bad candy exists in many different variations, from laced treats to literal drugs — unconvincingly sucks out characters’ souls, the act never feeling as dangerous as it should because the effect is so lackluster. There’s a lot of different stuff thrown at the screen, from evil ride share drivers to murderous masked killers, but none of it sticks despite the creators’ obvious enthusiasm.
Connell’s influence is at least felt in the lack of female bodies on display, their decidedly unsexy Halloween costumes and the fact that at least two female characters take their heels off to better handle a stressful situation. Likewise, a man ends up in less clothes than his female counterpart during a key chase sequence. Mostly, though, there’s not enough time to care about any of these characters since they’re gone almost as soon as they appear. A deaf kid features prominently in the opening segment, and there are several POC included at various points too, but nobody is developed enough to really make an impact. They all, essentially, boast one-line descriptors — abusive stepfather, rat-faced drug dealer, horny weirdo, etc. The only real character development in Bad Candy, in fact, is with Paul and Billy, and even then, it comes so late in the game that it’s hard to conjure up much reason to care. As weird as it sounds, the film works best as a showcase for the acting talents of the dude from Slipknot, which is really saying something.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.