Friday, 12 October 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Hard Candy (2005)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This is the second Fairy Tale Friday I have had to put a disclaimer on. The film Hard Candy is a thrilling psychological game of cat and mouse. Or girl and wolf, in this case. It also contains violence and some very disturbing scenes. It is an excellent example of predator vs prey where those roles flip in an unexpected way, but it also contains a scene of shocking violence.

Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

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This film, directed by David Slade, focuses on a 14-year-old female vigilante's trapping and torture of a man whom she suspects of being a sexual predator. Heavy stuff. It is essentially a two-hander and stars the amazing Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. Ellen Page's character wears a red hoodie which reflects back to us the idea of a red hooded cape. She is the young girl, navigating the deep woods of puberty and adulthood, who comes face to face with a wolfish older man. The tagline on the Japanese version was Red Hood Traps Wolf At His Own Game. 

Our film starts off with this online conversation between the 14 year old Thonggrrrl14 and Lensman319. The conversation is flirty and dangerous. It rings every alarm bell about online safety and my heart starts to pound when she suggests they hook up. That's right. it looks like her idea. The first thing that really struck me was her use of grrrl (like Riotgrrrl --the same reason i use Spidergrrl) and the 14. We are clear that this is a young teen. On the other hand, he announces his maturity without letting slip his age through the word LensMAN. This is a dangerous situation waiting to happen. All the fears we have for our teenage daughters can be encapsulated in this opening scene. Don't chat online with people you don't know and don't agree to meet up with them (even in a public place.) You fear for her, afraid for her safety and possibly her life. 

They meet up and she looks even younger than fourteen. Ellen Page's character Hayley has such a baby face that she could be twelve here. (Ellen Page was actually eighteen at the time of filming.)Her voice is high and childish. What is particularly worrying is that this does not deter Jeff. You see him sensually wipe the chocolate from her lip with his thumb.

After a bit of flirting they go back to his place, which is also his photography studio. He wants to take some pictures of her (another red flag.) She offers to make them both screwdrivers saying they have taught in her school to never drink something she didn't make herself because someone could put something in it. He laughs and commends her for her wisdom and allows her to make them alcoholic drinks.  We see him drink, then become dizzy and collapse. All of our fears about her safety in the deep dark woods with the older man have suddenly been turned on its head. The opening scenes present him very much as predator and Hayley as the prey, but this changes the dynamic. After an unspecified amount of time he wakes up, tied to a chair.

He wakes up disoriented, oblivious to the fact that she has removed her red hooded cape (symbolising the shedding of her innocence) and her face has become hard and her voice slightly deeper. He thinks this is some teenage sex game. but as she tells him, Playtime's over. Over the course of their conversation you learn that she has been stalking him online. She chose this day to meet up as she knew his neighbours were away so there is no one to hear him scream. But then she accuses him of stalking her, of trying to do everything he could to get her to like him so they could meet up and he could have sex with her. She berates him for behaving inappropriately by asking her over and giving her alcohol. She accuses him of being a paedophile.

This is heady stuff. She looks like the victim here and his behaviour clearly looks dodgy. It gets worse.  She claims while he was unconscious she has uncovered "sick" photos of a local girl who had been kidnapped and remains missing. Now she accuses him of being not only a paedophile, but a murderer as well.

Ok, folks. here comes the bit that needed the disclaimer. Hayley once again incapacitates Jeff and when he wakes he is strapped to the table with an icepack on his groin. Hayley tells him that she is numbing his testicles with ice as she is going to castrate him as punishment for hurting young girls. Then she does it. Literally, does it. With a scalpel and a medical textbook from her dad's office. He is the prey and she is now the predator. Feel free to skip this one.

After she leaves him, he discovers that she has not actually cut his balls off, only numbed them and squeezed them in a bulldog clip. He pursues her --she is now his prey--but she attacks him with a stun gun. When he wakes she has put a noose around his neck and says if he will go ahead and kill himself that she will erase all evidence of his crimes, but if he refuses then she will expose his sordid secrets. He escapes and chases her up onto the roof. The predator/prey aspect ping-pongs back and forth in this tense rooftop struggle.

On the roof she tells him she has phoned his ex-girlfriend Janelle and posing as a police officer has asked her to come over to his house. She says that she will run half-naked into Janelle's arms to expose him as a paedophile. But if he hangs himself she will destroy the evidence of his crime.

The scariest thing to me is when he finally breaks down and confesses that he watched while another man raped and murdered the missing girl Donna Mauer. He promises that if she spares his life, he will tell her the other man's name so she can exact her revenge. It is the chilling way that she says, "Aaron told me that you did it before he killed himself," that you know he is not her first. And the way she convinces him to hang himself and then casually exclaims that she has no intention of destroying the evidence also chills me. This girl is no man's meat  (to quote Angela Carter.) 

Throughout the film, the predator/prey balance shifts. We see Hayley go from wronged innocent to vigilante, to cold blooded (assisted)  killer. We see Jeff as sexual predator, then emasculated, then broken. 

The film ends with Hayley back in her innocent red hoodie, walking home through the woods. Perhaps planning her next assault on a predatory wolf. 

That's all for this week. Next week will be the penultimate  Fairy Tale Friday look at Little Red Riding Hood. Stay tuned.  

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