Its hard not to be somewhat disappointed with "Hard Candy" considering the massive amounts of hype that this film generated (including kick starting the career of rising Horror icon director David Slade). In essence, this is a film that insanely well executed but suffers from a few script flaws that tend to keep it from reaching the heights that it could have. Was "Hard Candy" still impressive? Of course it was.
Jeff (Wilson) seems to have a connection with 14 year old Hayley (Page) via the internet. Once they decide to meet in a coffee shop their relationship seems to be moving in some unusual directions. When Hayley offers to go to his place and he agrees, the trap seems to be set. What Jeff doesn't know is that he isn't the only predator in this tentative relationship and that Hayley has been planning this moment for some time. Now its a game of predators trying to out prey one another.
The truth behind the matter is that at its core, "Hard Candy" is a basic thriller done torture style. Its basically a two person film that builds on a slow, dialogue heavy tension that occasionally bursts at its own seems in brief and chaotic moments of physical clashing. Although its two leads (Wilson and Page) deliver fantastic performances of electric tension and intense moments, its director David Slade that steals the show. His slow moving shots and intense close ups create a tension in normally boring scenes and his ability to stay with these moments without making the actors feel like they are overacting shows his skillful use of timing. He paces the film damn clear perfectly and even the rather false moments of violence and 'break outs' from the tension seem exciting even if all that is happening is a character moving a table 6 inches. The combination of his visual and the stellar performances makes this film worth the watch and one of the better modern Horror films out there.
The basic flaws that "Hard Candy" suffers from is the odd logic leaps it makes to get its story out. Although some of them are forgivable (like how Hayley is seems to know so much about Jeff and, in particular, his apartment - which is explained that she has been tailing him and found out through his friend Aaron) some of it isn't (like how she figures out his password so damn quickly or some of his motivations for not just grabbing the evidence and fucking running). The film also seems to be damn determined to make this situation as complicated as possible with its preachy dialogue about bad vs. good. Half the time it feels rather like padding (although the performance is still believable) than necessary character build. Perhaps the script could have used a few more cuts of this lengthy dialogue (take a cue from the rather dialogue sparse French Horror film "Inside") and focused more on the acting and directing.
Although "Hard Candy" is impressive for what it is, sometimes it does seem to take it a bit far in trying to be the script that broke the boundaries (which it never really does). With its stellar performances and feisty combination of old school and modern Thriller/Horror directing from Slade, "Hard Candy" does overcome its many pitfalls with style and grace. Just not all of them.
BONUS PRAISE: I love the old 60s Thriller title sequence for this film. Similar to what was used on "Vacancy" and other modern movies that use a throwback style, it did raise my expectations for the rest of the film. It was a nice way to kick off the film though.
Written By Matt Reifschneider