Hard Candy is anything but sweet, following a 14-year-old girl as she torments a suspected paedophile in his own home. It’s a striking big screen debut for indie filmmaker David Slade whose crisp direction provides a great showcase for the fearless acting of Patrick Wilson (The Phantom Of The Opera) and the precocious Ellen Page. Together they pull off an extraordinary balancing act - a film that will have you both squirming in your seat and teetering on the edge of it.
Slade explores every dark corner in the space between four walls. Wilson is tied down for the most part as this pretty young thing engages him in a deadly mind game. But as much as it is tense and claustrophobic, it’s also sardonically funny. Page has an arsenal of deadpan dialogue and in among the verbal jousting, writer Brian Nelson reveals just how twisted both these characters are. The combination of wit and violence only adds to the overall unsettling effect.
One of the more brutal scenes will surely have men crossing their legs and wincing. Still, it’s not so easy to dismiss the film as exploitative. Slade doesn’t get graphic, instead using the power of suggestion with clever editing and arresting close-ups.
"THE COMBINATION OF WIT AND VIOLENCE IS UNSETTLING"
This is definitely a visceral rather than intellectual take on the subject of paedophilia, yet there is also an underpinning delicacy about the way the confrontations build and the measured approach of the actors. The final scene is a little disappointing, as it feels overly contrived, but Hard Candy lingers nonetheless.