An uncompromisingly honest, damnably grim examination of the often In-human human-condition, THE CANDY SNATCHERS is a movie that goes almost too far into the heart sickening corridors of depravity. While there are certainly other movies with bloodier special effects, superior stories, and competent acting, very few films come as close to the wolf-grinning breath of death and amorality as this puppy. Maybe this is a result of its confounding honesty or its minimal almost banal approach to violence and cruelty – elements that would be depicted with dramatic fineness and distracting effects in mainstream cinema but which are filmed just as messy and emotionally painful as they are in real life on this raw piece of celluloid. A simplistic, naturalistic technique of filming is joined by a decidedly deadpan disinterest for human life in the narrative of the film, giving it the presence of an open wound. Whatever the reason, this movie hurts. In fact, I defy anyone to watch this and not feel in need of a shower or absolution afterwards (and, hey, I’m not even Catholic!).
One of the most simplistic yet profound characteristics of this haunting attack against decency is the method in which the filmmakers capture with accuracy and a minim of fuss the very real waste, meaninglessness, and ease with which violence can be – and often is – committed by folks you walk by in the supermarket everyday. Exchanging the poetically lovely depiction of candy-colored violence displayed by the slasher and giallo sub-genres, a movie like Candy Snatchers relies on primal savagery rather than make-up for its effect, the camera showing mean-spirited violence with the same unconcern and honesty as it would a sleepy country breakfast. This sense of reality, of honesty, puts it in the same distinguished company as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HENRY, and NIGHT TRIN MURDERS.
This is one mean mother-fucker of cinema!
Rightly considered a bruising counter-classic of depravity, it’s just as much a vivid example of suspense. Guerdon Trueblood’s ’70s exploitative excess was undeniably instrumental in further defining guerilla-tactics movie making in an era where chainsaws screamed to glorious well-oiled life and parents murdered murderers. In a plot as minimal as it is believable, a trio of petty criminals -- Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), her brother Alan (Brad David), and military vet Eddy (Vincent Martorano) – develop a scheme to kidnap the daughter of a diamond mogul, expecting he’ll pay for the safe return of his darling girl. While walking home one afternoon from Catholic school, 16-year-old Candy (Susan Senett) is abducted by this greasy threesome and hidden deep in the hills of Southern California. Buried alive, she’s given a measly air pipe to help her breathe. When her father puts a kink in the gang’s plan by refusing to pay ransom because, frankly, he doesn’t give a shit what happens to her, the trio descend into their own hell of paranoia, rage, and confusion. Things only get worse from there . . .
This consistently challenging example of self-reflective hate and emotional lethargy asks for no friends and takes no prisoners. It doesn’t want to entertain and it certainly doesn’t care if you like it. Its primary function is to tell as lean and mean a story of psychological depravity as it can, wringing every ounce of emotion out of its viewers (and battered, tortured, brave-trooper cast). Bryan Gindoff delivers a screenplay both harsh and strangely meditative in its objective presentation of emotionally charged scenarios, refusing to pass judgments on his victims or victimizers. Difficult to find let alone in decent condition, Subversive’s transfer is a triumph, preserving the grindhouse ‘feeling’ of the picture while cleaning the print, allowing it to be seen in what must be its clearest incarnation. Director Geurdon Trueblood’s sole feature, the performances he coaxes from the flinchingly abused Sennet and the coldly sexual Bolling are impressive, neither too understated nor too dramatic to break the atmosphere of desperate believability.
Presenting the movie in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), the colors are natural and clear, and the grain, when present, is minimal. If there is a small amount of print damage, recall the scarcity (and probable condition) of the original negative, thank the cinema gods that it looks as good as it does! While a plot point or two may be given away on the menus options, you can circumspect this problem by doing what you do at work – you know, focus on something else).
Extras . . . you want extras? Subversive has ‘em! Including two audio options (Dolby Digital Mono and a Stereo remix), both in English, the package also offers two theatrical trailers for the title film, and a handful for additional Subversive Cinema releases. Bios for Tiffany Bolling, Ben Piazza, Susan Sennett, Vince Martorano, Bonnie Boland, Bryan Gindoff and Guerdon Trueblood are informative. Liner notes and a gallery of stills lend some background to the movie, while the featurette “The Woman of Candy Snatchers” interviews Tiffany Bolling and Susan Sennett, both of whom are as honest about their lives and opinions as they were as characters in the film. A commentary with Tiffany Bolling and Susan Sennett (moderated by Marc Edward Heuck and Norm Hill) veers off topic from time to time but this only lends a further air of cultural context to the proceedings. Last, in a move by Subversive that is especially neat, a replica of the original poster and lobby cards are tucked inside the cover, recapturing the now nostalgic feeling of those long gone grindhouse days.
William P. Simmons
Directed by Guerdon Trueblood
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Subversive Cinema, Inc. release
Region 1 / NTSC / 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen / Dolby Mono
THE CANDY SNATCHERS