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|
|Running time||104 minutes|
Hard Candy is a 2005 thriller film focusing on the torture of a suspected sexual predator by a 14-year-old vigilante. The film 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 computer chair. Hayley explains that she drugged him and has also been tracking him, knowing he is a child rapist. Jeff denies the allegations, saying he had innocent intentions. Hayley frantically searches the house, eventually finding a hidden safe in his rock garden containing pictures of child pornography, as well as 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 sees 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 has written a fake suicide note on his behalf and 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 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 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, and wanted to take pictures. He promises that, if she spares his life, he will disclose the other man's name and help her find him. Hayley says that she knows his name, and says "Aaron told me you did it before he killed himself", revealing that she has already dealt with him. Jeff still tries to blame Aaron, but Hayley says she doesn't care which person it was.
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 to "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 18 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 film 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. This technique, known as ETTR, is a standard procedure in digital photography and cinematography to minimize the amount of noise in shadows and midtones. Early working titles of the script were Vendetta and Snip Snip. The producer wanted a title with a "sugar and spice combination and a mixture of harsh roughness, innocence, and vulnerability", and settled on the title Hard Candy.
The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with a midnight screening. The Dolby Surround System failed before the screening and the audience was kept out until it was fixed. The New York Times Magazine later said of Page's performance, "a star was born".
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 internet grooming". Todd McCarthy at Variety praised the "spectacular performance by teenage thesp Ellen Page".
Critics applauded Page's performance; USA Today praised her for "remain[ing] consistently convincing" to her role which is both "powerful and chilling... She manages to be both cruelly callous and likable, and hers is one of the most complex, disturbing and haunting performances of the year." Lynn Hirschberg of The New York Times Magazine said that Page "managed to be adorable and persuasive while wielding a large knife." 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."
Steve Persall wrote in the Tampa Bay Times that he watched the film in a crowded French Quarter dive bar on a Saturday night. "Until the shocking end, there's nothing less than rapt attention to this sordid thriller about an online predator (Wilson) and his not-so-innocent prey (Ellen Page). On a party night in New Orleans? That's how creepy-good this movie is."
Steve Schneider praised its "grabber of a sicko setup... It's a memorably tense pas de deux, and if the movie doesn't pay off on it properly, fault a script that ventures further and further into psychological-thriller claptrap, leaving the two stars to rely on their hefty talents to keep it at all believable. Hayley, we learn, is nowhere near the naïve young flower to whom we've been introduced; unfortunately, much of what she knows seems to have been learned from Extremities. As she begins to assert herself, Hard Candy enters a miasma of revelation and revenge one that might have worked better on the stage than the screen, where the story's claustrophobia and increasingly unwieldy plot twists take a major toll. Still, what an intro."
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. Page won the Best Actress award from the Austin Film Critics Association.
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".
Notes and references
- "Making Hard Candy," DVD featurette
- "Hard Candy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- "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
- Hirschberg, Lynn (Feb. 10, 2008). "Breaking Through". The New York Times Magazine. p. 51(L). Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- Schneider, Steve (March 30, 2006). "CLOSING FRAMES - What to watch for in the final weekend of the Florida Film Festival". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- Lionsgate Drops a Massive Load of Horror Blu-rays in October - Blair Witch and More!
- Puig, Claudia (December 22, 2006). "Ellen: Manipulates Hard Candy to great effect". USA Today. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- Dargis, Manohla (April 14, 2006). "In 'Hard Candy,' an Internet Lolita Is Not as Innocent as She Looks". The New York Times.
- Persall, Steve (July 1, 2013). "As he turns 40, a look at Patrick Wilson's best performances". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
|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 allmovie
- 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.