Grimmfest: Candy Land (2022)

Director: John Swab

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Starring: Olivia Luccardi, Eden Brolin, Sam Quartin, Owen Campbell, Virginia Rand, William Baldwin, Guinevere Turner, Brad Carter, Billy Blair, Bruce Davis

Setting his latest feature in 1996, writer/director John Swab tells the story of sex-workers operating out of a truck stop. They take in Remy (Olivia Luccardi), a seemingly naïve young woman that was exiled from her religious cult. As she forms bonds with her new friends while navigating her strained belief system, Remy finds her true calling in life.

As the new arrival who feels unable to return to her family, Luccardi puts an excellent performance into Remy. She captures the determination of this girl with a brand-new lease on a life she previously had no choice in, making it easy to understand why she's sticking around with this group. It helps that the welcoming sex-workers are easy to root for, with each member given a combination of good performances and character work. From their charming closeness, to their relationships with madam Nora (Guinevere Turner) and local lawman Sheriff Rex (William Baldwin), it's easy to believe in these bonds formed.

Once the genre elements arrive, Swale depicts the intersection of sex and violence with a sleaziness that fits this story well. As new avenues are revealed and characters get a taste for new sensations, many fall victim in heartbreaking fashion. This tale of unconventional families may feel like nothing new, yet it's effectively told from beginning to end, and has time for a fantastic needle drop.

Candy Land previously played at Grimmfest