Candy Land Image

Candy Land

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | January 11, 2023

Swab opens Candy Land with an onslaught of graphic nudity and explicit simulated sex. This establishes the seedy world of truck stop sex acts for money and does not pull any punches. It also de-glamorizes the subject matter. Steering clear of titillation and intentional arousal, the flesh is used for shock value. Then, like a storm blowing through, the skin disappears for the rest of the runtime. Like a bare-assed cowboy, the nudity does its job and rides out of town. This is another great example of how graphic nudity can be used as a story tool now that it has no commercial value in the market.

Will Stone’s superb cinematography gives us excellent composition and camera angles so sharp you get paper cuts. On top of everything else, this is a Christmas film. It’s set during the holiday season, we have lights and trees, and there is even gratuitous use of Santa costumes. If that wasn’t enough to qualify for the holidays, it also uses a bunch of Christmas carols on the soundtrack. The festive jingles make everything even more twisted before the insane explosive climax with the best use of Crowded House I have witnessed. If you delight in the sickest extremes of holiday entertainment, Swab’s horror-thriller is the big box under the tree, kids.

A screenplay this fantastic has drawn an equally amazing cast.”

A screenplay this fantastic has drawn an equally amazing cast. The presence of legendary indie screenwriter Turner gives Candy Land the Charles Atlas seal of approval. If the woman who wrote American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol is on board, it has to be something special. Turner’s tough and tender yin-yang is a fresh reminder of her acting talent. Baldwin gives us his best work in years, making complicated seem so damn easy. Quartin is terrific as the unlikely moral compass of the story. She is a force onscreen.

Campbell has the most challenging job here, as male sex workers are rare in movies, even in this subgenre. He blasts through it in a totally realistic fashion and solicits sympathy with flare. Brolin gives us a tour of every emotional level someone caught in this nightmare goes through. The subtlety with which she does this is remarkable. Rand is able to breathe a lot of life into Liv, keeping her from being a prop or mere scenery. But it’s Luccardi who is the breakthrough here. Her work as Remy is supreme, with all the details of her performance glittering like a giant blood-red diamond. This should launch her high up into the cinema heavens, where she can continue to strut her stuff.

With Candy Land, Swab has delivered a historic flashpoint in the darker side of the film universe. It is a supernova of seediness. The flick is the true bastion of this under-utilized subgenre.

Candy Land (2023)

Directed and Written: John Swab

Starring: Olivia Luccardi, Guinevere Turner, Sam Quartin, Virginia Rand, Riley Brolin, Owen Campbell, William Baldwin, etc.

Movie score: 9.5/10

Candy Land Image

"…a historic flashpoint in the darker side of the film universe."

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