I have to say, I do like a dark, underlying premise, and The Candy Shop is a short film that certainly appeals to this sensibility. Okay, perhaps having “A Fairytale About the Sexual Exploitation of Children” smeared underneath the title does lessen the subtlety to an extent, but overall it’s still quite an inspired way of tackling the subject matter.
The story is allegorical of child sex trafficking in Atlanta, Georgia, which currently has the highest rate in America and the 10th highest for a city in the world, with a reported 500 underage girls exploited for sex in the city every month, It’s no surprise that writer Charlie Wetzel and director Brandon McCormick thought it a serious enough issue to put to film.
We’re introduced to a grey, mist-befallen landscape, a place that could be forever locked in winter. Jimmy is a young boy forced to act as breadwinner for his ill mother, making a living on a fruit stand in town. It’s here he begins to observe the peculiar goings on at the Candy Shop across the street. If you ask me, he’s not the most admirable employee: as he gives away three free oranges to some scrounging orphans. You aren’t doing the economy any favours with that behaviour, Jimmy.
Jimmy begins to grow suspicious of The Candy Shop’s owner, a snake-like gentleman in a top hat, who lures little children inside the store. He looks kind of like the bastard offspring of Willy Wonka and Lord Voldemort. This Candy Man character is played by Doug Jones, who is perhaps best known for his role in Pan’s Labyrinth, as both the Faun and that big pale, eyeless monster. Needless to say he knows how to be a creep, and he’s getting a first class creep on here. This miry character appears to give custom to the shakier men around town, who are not really your usual Candy fanatics. What’s more, the children who go into the shop don’t come back out. They vanish, and all that can be heard is the terrible rumbling of the ground and the groaning of machine cogs, which rock the fruit from Jimmy’s stand.
Apprehensive middle-aged men enter the shop and enquire as to whether the Candy Man has anything ‘fresh’. With a hissing glee, he glides into a back room to retrieve the ill-natured delights. The correlation between the brightly coloured lollypops and the exploitation of children is clear; candy is junk, an immediate gratification, much like casual sex. Objectifying innocent children turns them into something that is used and discarded in much the same way. I don’t think anyone needs to point out what’s wrong with child sex trafficking, but this justifiably angry film has obviously come from people utterly sickened to find it in their own midst. It’s a very nicely shot piece, and is supported by generally decent performances, particularly Doug Jones. The massive creep.
This review appeared in Issue 4 of Gorilla Film Magazine.