Pedophiles, tension and the bitter taste of ‘Hard Candy’

Joseph Wilson

A 14-year-old, the Internet and an older man with pedophilic tendencies; so begins the plot of “Hard Candy,” directed by David Slade.

While somewhat reminiscent of recent Homeland Security employees, the movie is cat-and-mouse chase that’s been reversed and then reversed again.

A meeting occurs between a 14-year-old girl, Ellen (Hayley Stark), and thirty-something fashion photographer, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), after an unstated period of flirting on the Internet.

Most of the movie takes place at Jeff’s home somewhere in the hills surrounding Los Angeles.

Ellen is a cute, kinetic and intelligent teenybopper who talks incessantly.

She drugs Jeff and duct tapes him to a chair abandoning the innocent act for that of an interrogator.

Playing head games with the flabbergasted Jeff, she becomes bent on breaking him down for information on his pedophilic ways.

“Hard Candy” moves quickly to keep the suspense high, failing to fill in important details about Ellen’s motive.

Tension is built through close camera angles, creating a sense of awkwardness that permeates the whole movie.

What the audience doesn’t see is just as important as what is seen.

“Hard Candy” uses implied violence, which through the audience’s imagination becomes more effective than outright gore.

Keeping the suspense level constant was effective in the film.

Ellen’s dialogue is often hard to believe since it’s coming from a 14-year-old. With lines like “Carpe omnia” (loosely translated “grab everything”), I sat back and thought, “No teen talks like this.”

Wilson gave the best performance in the movie by playing a seemingly innocent victim.

Wilson’s convincing display of outright panic when Ellen prepares to torture him for information about the things he may or may not have done with other girls.

Victim and captor change roles many times in Ellen’s deadly game.

Centerpiece to “Hard Candy” is the way Ellen interrogates Jeff. I won’t spoil what she does to him but needless to say it showed a level of planning not necessarily connected with a teenager.

While the movie works well in certain parts, such as the interrogation and chase scenes, many holes in the story were never answered.

Joe Wilson can be contacted at