Hard Candy (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Slade|
|Produced by||Rosanne Korenberg
|Written by||Brian Nelson|
|Music by||Molly Nyman
|Editing by||Art Jones|
The film, an independent production, was directed by David Slade, written by Brian Nelson and stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. It was the first feature film for Slade, who previously had worked mostly in music videos.
The film opens with a flirtatious online chat between 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) and 32-year-old photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) who agree to meet for the first time at a café. After further flirtation, Hayley suggests they return to Jeff's house. Once there, Hayley makes them both screwdrivers after telling Jeff that she would not drink something that she did not mix herself. Hayley, who appears slightly intoxicated, suggests that Jeff take some photographs of her, similar to the ones of young girls displayed on the walls of his home. As Hayley dances and poses, Jeff begins to feel disoriented and eventually passes out.
Jeff wakes up tied to a wheeled computer chair. Hayley explains that she drugged him and has also been tracking him, knowing he is a pedophile. Jeff denies the allegations, saying he had innocent intentions. Hayley frantically searches the house, eventually finding a hidden safe in his rock garden containing a photo of Donna Mauer, a local girl who had been kidnapped and who remains missing. Jeff denies involvement in Mauer's disappearance and tries to escape. Hayley asphyxiates him with plastic wrap until he passes out again.
Jeff once again wakes, this time tied to a steel table with a bag of ice on his genitals. Hayley once again confronts him about Donna Mauer, informing Jeff that she is going to castrate him. After a long conversation, she begins composing an e-mail to Janelle, Jeff's ex-girlfriend. Jeff attempts to dissuade her with threats, negotiation and a long plea for sympathy based on a story of the abuse he suffered as a child, but Hayley proceeds with the operation. Following its conclusion, she steps out of the room claiming to leave to take a shower. Jeff breaks free and observes what appears to be a plastic bag containing what used to be his genitalia. After seeing this, he quickly checks for his testicles. After realizing they are intact and unharmed, he realizes she faked the castration. Angered that she had psychologically tortured him, he storms off in a blunt rage in search of Hayley. Scalpel in hand, he follows Hayley to the bathroom, only to find that the shower is empty and he has walked into a trap; Hayley knocks him unconscious once again, this time with a stun gun.
Jeff awakens once more, this time standing on a chair, his hands bound, with a noose around his neck. Hayley reveals that she has written a fake suicide note on his behalf and she makes Jeff an offer. He can commit suicide, and Hayley will erase the evidence of his crimes. If he refuses to kill himself, Hayley will knock the chair out from under him and fully expose his secrets. Their conversation is interrupted when a neighbor (Sandra Oh) knocks on the door. Hayley answers and convinces the neighbor that she is Jeff’s niece who is staying for the weekend. When the neighbor asks her basic questions, Hayley stammers and tells unconvincing lies. When Hayley returns, Jeff breaks free from the noose and pursues her to the roof — where she has brought the noose and holds him off with the gun. Hayley reveals that she has contacted Janelle, who is driving to the house as they speak. She tells him that if he does not commit suicide, she will pull off her own clothes and run into Janelle's arms, crying and screaming.
Jeff finally confesses that he was involved in Donna Mauer’s death, but that he only watched while his accomplice committed the murder. He promises that, if she spares his life, he will disclose the other man’s name and help her find him. Hayley reveals that “Aaron”, the man Jeff claims killed Mauer, told her the same thing before killing himself. Janelle arrives and Hayley urges Jeff to kill himself to avoid prosecution and prison, where he will be branded as a child molester and brutalized. She reminds him that her offer is still on the table. Jeff, defeated, lets Hayley slide the noose around his neck with no resistance. He takes the deadly step off the roof with Hayley promising “I’ll take care of it all…” Hayley looks over the side of the house, observing Jeff, and simply states: “…or not.” She gathers her belongings and escapes through the woods at the rear of the house. She stops for a moment to sit and the scene cuts to Hayley walking down the road with the hood on her jacket over her head.
- Patrick Wilson as Jeff Kohlver
- Ellen Page as Hayley Stark
- Sandra Oh as Judy Tokuda
- Odessa Rae as Janelle Rogers
- Gilbert John as Nighthawks Clerk
The idea for Hard Candy came from a news story on 20/20 producer David W. Higgins saw about young Japanese girls who would lure older businessmen to a location with the promise of meaningful conversation and would assault and mug the men with a gang of other girls once the men arrived. This led him to wonder, “What if the person you expect to be the predator is not who you expect it to be? What if it’s the other person?” He then hired writer Brian Nelson to flesh out the idea.
Due to the controversial nature of the work, the budget was kept under $1 million so that the production company would not ask to change anything. Sandra Oh agreed to do the film due to her desire to work with fellow Canadian actress Ellen Page, with whom she had appeared in Wilby Wonderful, although not in the same scenes in that film.
Very little dubbing was used in the film, with only a couple of lines modified in post-production. Only nine minutes of music are present in the film, with ambient sounds, such as heavy breathing, making up most of the soundtrack. The film was shot in eighteen and a half days, largely in sequence, and mostly on a soundstage.
Hayley wears a red hooded sweatshirt that is often seen as an allusion to “Little Red Riding Hood.” However, this was a serendipitous wardrobe choice by the creative team that was not realized until later on. Foreign marketing for the film made great use of this allusion. For example, a tagline on the Japanese site for the movie reads “Red Hood traps the Wolf in his own game.”
Jean-Clement Sorret was the digital colorist for the film, and is one of the few instances where a colorist received a spot in the opening credits. The film contains many coloring effects and “density shifts” of lighting to reflect the moods of the characters. For example, when Hayley gets angry the colors would be edited to be of lower frequency. One effect used which, as far as the director is aware of, had not been done in cinema before, was to brighten the lighting in filming and correct everything down in post-production. This allowed for facial details to be visible even while having a darkened atmosphere. According to the DVD extras, the process required a custom-built digital intermediate to be made and proved to be extremely difficult, with corrections having to be made frame-by-frame in some instances. However, this technique (overexposure followed darkening in post) is a standard procedure in digital photography and cinematography to minimize the amount of noise in shadows and midtones (it's known as ETTR).
Early working titles of the script were Vendetta and Snip Snip. The producer wanted a title with a “sugar and spice combination […] a mixture of harsh roughness, and innocence, and vulnerability,” and settled on the title Hard Candy.
Hard Candy opened in Los Angeles and New York City on April 14, 2006 in a limited release. During its opening weekend, the film grossed nearly $30,000 per theater, the highest per-screen average in the top 50.
The American DVD was released on September 19, 2006 with two commentary tracks, an hour’s worth of making-of featurettes, six deleted and extended scenes, the script and director’s notebook, and trailers for Hard Candy and other Lionsgate films. The blu-ray release by Lionsgate Home Entertainment was scheduled for October 5, 2010.
The film critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave a 68% positive rating based on 127 reviews. Caroline Westbrook at Empire Magazine called it “[a] cracking little thriller.” David Edwards at the Daily Mirror praised it as a “smart, challenging and timely look at the world of [I]nternet grooming.” Todd McCarthy at Variety praised the “spectacular performance by teenage thesp Ellen Page.”
Critics applauded Page’s performance; USA Today praised her for “remaining consistently convincing” to her role which is both “powerful and chilling.” She won the Best Actress award from the Austin Film Critics Association. The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis recognized the film’s debt to “Ariel Dorfman and Neil LaBute, among others,” but did not care for the torture theme “in the age of Abu Ghraib.”
The film won three awards at the Sitges Film Festival, 2005: Slade won the Audience award for Best Feature Film and the Best Film award, and Brian Nelson, the writer, won the award for Best Screenplay.
In popular culture 
The German Neue Deutsche Härte band Oomph! based the video for their song “Beim ersten Mal tut’s immer weh” on the film, as did American metalcore band Beneath the Sky for their song “Terror Starts at Home.”
See also 
Notes and references 
- "Making Hard Candy," DVD featurette
- "Hard Candy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- While written as “Jeff” in the film credits and early script, most revisions of the script spell it as “Geoff.” An example can be seen in the DVD featurette “Making Hard Candy,” at about 35 minutes.
- Fall Frights: HARD CANDY (Film Review)
- "Sandra Oh News.: On Ellen Page".
- Original Japanese text:赤ずきんが仕掛けるオオカミへのゲーム
- DVD audio commentary with director David Slate and writer Brian Nelson
- Lionsgate Drops a Massive Load of Horror Blu-rays in October - Blair Witch and More!
- “Ellen: Manipulates ‘Hard Candy’ to great effect” by Claudia Puig, USA Today, December 22, 2006 section E2
- Dargis, Manohla (April 14, 2006). "In 'Hard Candy,' an Internet Lolita Is Not as Innocent as She Looks". The New York Times.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Hard Candy (film)|
- Hard Candy at Thriller Movies
- Hard Candy at the Internet Movie Database
- Hard Candy at AllRovi
- Hard Candy at Box Office Mojo
- Hard Candy at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hard Candy at Metacritic
- Review at Ain't It Cool
- October 19, 2003 draft script
- In 'Hard Candy,' an Internet Lolita Is Not as Innocent as She Looks, Manohla Dargis, April 14, 2006, New York Times.