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Candy Land (Grimmfest 2022)

2 min read

Candyland is a film about a group of “lot lizards” (truck-stop sex workers), and is actually pretty interesting. It's set in and around this truck stop in 1996. During the first 45 minutes you get a good picture of who these people are and the camaraderie between them. It's pretty well-written for such a small indie horror movie.

A young woman named Remy (, who you may recognise from It Follows) who has escaped some kind of Christian fundamentalist background that might be a cult shows up, just as a dead body also appears on their turf. After hanging around for a day or two, she has to go to work, that's the rule. As the film goes along, you learn that Remy has some kind of ulterior motive, and that while she seems to be naïve, that might not be the case.

You get a clear sense of the lives of the five girls who are central to the plot. plays the local cop who is getting off with the one man working the truck stop, played by (who was R.J. in X, a film that Candyland shares a little DNA with). I hadn't seen William Baldwin in a film for about ten years, so that was a nice surprise. You definitely buy him as this really scummy cop. The madam is played by , who is better known as the screenwriter of American Psycho. Turner was also the lead in and screenwriter of Go Fish, amongst other films.

It's a low-budget movie, without much money to put any period detail in. What they did that was smart was just not to try to shoot anything that's too contemporary. When they're inside the truck stop, for example, they shoot quickly so the eye doesn't linger on things like more recent brand labels. They get in and out without taking too much out of the period setting.

As it goes along, Candyland becomes a much gorier film and people start getting knocked off. It has a really interesting twist that is not to be spoiled—you won't quite see it coming, but it has some basis in an infamous cult-related incident that happened in the 1990s.

Candyland was a pleasant surprise of a film. It's not a slasher film per se, but it definitely draws on that genre—but with a twist on some of the typical tropes. It is sympathetic to the sex workers without being too male gaze-y. It definitely feels like the type of “exploitation film” that somebody like Sean Baker will most likely eventually make. Candyland was the best film I saw at 2022 by some distance. It's a unique, interesting movie that's well-made, well-shot, and features well-written characters, which is not typical of small-scale genre movies.

                         Candy Land was screened at Grimmfest 2022 and will be released sometime in 2023.