09 February 2007

Hard Candy

Directed by: David Slade

Hard Candy addresses the predation of underage girls by internet-prowling pedophiles. It's quite an unsettling subject, and accordingly, the action unfolds almost unfailingly in claustrophobic close-ups while the settings are theatrical in their confinement. Though the film’s politics are a bit irresponsible and excessive, it’s that very shock-value that makes it compelling to watch – apparently my fear of castration is very literal, not just in an abstract Freudian sense.

Whereas a scary movie like The Descent uses the filmic medium to make the viewer uncomfortable, Hard Candy simply thinks up a frightening situation and shoves it down your throat. It works, almost, but it feels like cheating. One of its biggest problems is the screenplay, which is didactic in an obnoxiously obvious sort of way. Does anyone really need to be lectured on the malicious effects of child pornography and pedophilia, save perhaps the pedophiles and pornographers themselves? Is that the film’s intended target audience?

Jeff (Patrick Wilson) may or may not have killed a girl, and he may or may not have taken pornographic photographs. The film, however, isn’t a mystery; it intentionally fails to investigate whether Jeff has done anything beyond inappropriate, implying instead that anyone with pedophilic urges is inherently guilty of a crime against society. As punishment, it disproportionately prescribes torture, mutilation, and death. Call me a bleeding heart, but I don’t think anyone, particularly someone who may not have done anything beyond possessing a few photographs, deserves that kind of treatment.

The script tries to throw in some philosophical reflections on the nature of voyeurism intended to raise the film’s intellectual value, but unfortunately, they fail – don’t expect Vertigo or Peeping Tom here. It’s a very violent film for violence’s sake; for those with the courage to look, it's tough to look away, but don't expect to learn anything.

Grade: C+

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