Bad Candy

Bad Candy (2020)

Bad Candy first published by

Halloween. It is, at least in myth, a time of masks and monstrosity, when the boundaries between the human and the inhuman, the living and the dead, are unusually fluid, when candy and other just des(s)erts are served cold, when a healthy respect for the seasonal spirits can make the difference between meeting a grisly end and getting to enjoy another year. It is also of course a time for spooky storytelling – and like Trick ‘r Treat (2007) and Tales of Halloween (2015), Scott B. Hansen and Desiree Connell’s Bad Candy is an anthology of creepy tales occurring on the night of Samhain.

Sweet Kyra (Riley Sutton) turns the tables on her wicked stepfather with some imaginative sketching. A young bully who breaks the rules of Halloween finds himself aptly punished along with other transgressors. Mean old Mr. Grimsley (Bill Pacer) gets a taste of his own throat-shredding medicine. Skeezy drug dealer Charlie (Ryan Kiser) meets a fitting end in a filthy toilet. Tripping while working the late shift in a morgue, Abbie (Haley Leary) confuses sex and death. Marie (Alexandra Lucchesi) must keep fending off the escalating, unwelcome attentions of former friend Chuck (Michael Aaron Milligan). Four veterans of the war in Afghanistan have found a healthy outlet for slaking a bloodlust that has never gone away. And a group of ghostbusters gets bogged in the causal slippage of a past tragedy.

Much as that last story with the ghostbusters is set over two separate timelines that keep impossibly crossing, the other stories in Bad Candy relate to each other, and to the frame narrative which regularly punctuates them, in a manner that will keep viewers on their toes. All the stories take place in the small town of New Salem over Halloween, and several of them ramify out of the same central party that briefly brings many of the characters together in one place. Yet as disc jockeys Chilly Billy (Corey Taylor) and Paul (Zach Galligan, Gremlins, 1984) broadcast cautionary Halloween tales at Psychotronic Radio 66.6 FM, it is never entirely clear whether these men’s tall tales and true are also what we are watching unfold on screen. After all, even as Billy and Paul chronicle all these local escapades, their show can also frequently be heard playing on the radio in the background of the stories themselves, creating a certain slipperiness between these two narrators and their narrated worlds – as though the DJs are conjuring, live on air and in real time, unsettling fictions of which they and their show paradoxically form a part. 

The DJs’ final story, which they are retelling at the request of a listener, provokes another listener to call in and to challenge their grasp of the facts, leading to an illogical incursion of the story’s ghost into its tellers’ reality to impose a vindictive emendation – and then Kyra, from their first story, makes a remote reappearance to erase another threat, suggesting that reward can coexist alongside punishment in the topsy-turvy morality of Halloween. The irrationality of all these interactions between storytellers and their storied characters only adds to the uncanniness of Bad Candy, whose tricksiness comes mixed with the treats of some very macabre humour, gory mayhem and moody autumnal atmosphere.

strap: In Scott B. Hansen & Desiree Connell’s Halloween anthology, two DJs conjure a paradoxical world of small-town myth that bites back

© Anton Bitel