Hard Candy: trick or treat?

It is commonplace to find films that are all style and no substance; somewhat less so to find the reverse. To find one with too much of both, however, is a genuine rarity. Cue Hard Candy, the unusual nymphet revenge tragedy from first-time director David Slade, which following its rather lukewarm reception on British release this summer is now gunning for the smaller screen with an opportune DVD release in time for Halloween.

Hard Candy's substance comes from the fact that not only does it tackle that most difficult of subjects - paedophilia - but also twists it round so that the standard responses we would bring to the theme are challenged severely, if not conclusively. The style overdose comes from an overstrained cinematographical palette - drawn from Slade's former career directing commercials - which leaves the viewer wondering what exactly, among the panoply of guilt, torture and suffering, is on sale. Yet, for a film that has the theme of castration as a fairly continuous focus, a little more action with the cutting knife would have tightened things up considerably...

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