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Film: Hard Candy
Is she trapped... or is she bait?
Strangers shouldn't talk to little girls.

A 2005 psychological thriller/Exploitation Film featuring Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page as a 32-year old photographer named Jeff Kohlver and the precocious 14-year-old Hayley Stark. They meet at a cafe after chatting online, and agree to go to Jeff's secluded house to have a little fun, where Hayley mixes the drinks and strips for a photo session. It seems that Jeff has the advantage, when he passes out and comes to, he is tied to a chair and being investigated by a not-so-innocent teenage girl. What follows is a series of arguments, cat-and-mouse games and psychological torture sessions, culminating in a tense rooftop encounter.

The film is interesting, due to its controversial nature and unsympathetic and hard-to-categorize lead characters.

Not to be confused with the Counting Crows album, the title track of that album, or even the other album of the same name by Madonna. Or actual hard candy.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male: Played straight as Hayley, a fourteen year old girl, is torturing Jeff as punishment for supposedly being a 32-year-old male predator (Jeff IS a predator, but the audience is led to believe he is not until the big reveal, so viewers will abide by this trope until the truth comes out), then deconstructed as Hayley crosses the Moral Event Horizon, and then reconstructed as Jeff's deeds get increasingly violent as well as Hayley uncovering more evidence that Jeff is a predator.
  • The Ace: What Hayley appears to be on the surface - she is highly intelligent, reading books way outside of her maturity level, cute, witty, and seemingly comes from a great family.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Played with as the roles of "psycho" and "victim" switch several times between Hayley and Jeff from the second act onwards.
  • Asshole Victim: If a child killed a child molester, would anyone think less of her for it?
  • Ax-Crazy: Jeff himself in the final act, as he flips out and starts threatening Hayley with a knife after repeatedly stabbing a photograph of a girl.
  • Bifauxnen: Hayley looks more like a cute little boy than a Fille Fatale. This makes sense, considering the actress.
  • Billing Displacement: See that cool, stylized poster up there? It's been replaced by bland face shots of Hayley and Jeff now that Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson are stars.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Played straight with the gun that Hayley finds while searching for Jeff's Porn Stash. Also, the "Missing: Donna Mauer" poster at Nighthawks.
  • Date My Avatar: Goes both ways. We have this charming guy and this sweet young girl, and they have so much in common. But they are both faking it. They are really predators, trying to lure each other into a trap.
  • Deadly Bath: Defied, in its 'girl goes to take a shower with the psycho in the house' variation. When the man holding the knife bursts into the bathroom and pulls back the shower curtain, he finds it empty. Then the girl leaps out from behind him holding a stungun.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: When Jeff and Hayley first meet and he offers to send her bootleg MP3s:
    Hayley: You have the concert?!
    Jeff: Just one song. And a little louder, please, so the authorities know!
  • Dirty Old Man: Jeff has the typical perverted personality, but he is legitimately charming and physically attractive and only about thirty.(This acts as a deconstruction, actively undoing the idea that child molestors are creepy, obvious criminals, and uses his good lucks up until the end to remind the audience that perpetrators of sexual abuse usually get away with it because they are not noticeable. The film toys with this making you empathize with him up until the truth comes out and you realize what a sick monster he is, and learn that all his early pleasantness was a trap to keep his lifestyle going.)
  • Driven to Suicide: Mixed with assisted suicide, with weird Mercy Kill overtones. Yeah, it's that kind of thing.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The events we saw more or less happened as we saw them, but it's strongly implied that much of the backstory we've been given has been falsified.
  • Evil Plan: Unusual in that there are two; Jeff and Hayley want to prey on each other but in different manners.
  • Evil Versus Evil: We have a psycho predator and a equally psycho child duking it out.
  • Exploitation Film: Accused of being an exploitation film, exploiting the Pædo Hunt Hysteria.
  • Film Noir: It could be seen as a twisted neo-Noir, with its dark, bleak subject matter, its claustrophobic setting, and its grim protagonists. Hayley could be viewed as the Anti-Hero, the Femme Fatale and the Private Detective all in one, and Jeff could be seen as an Anti-Hero who is destroyed by becoming entangled with the Femme Fatale.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "She slept with all the wrong people and ended up killing herself."
    • And not long after that, "Four out of five doctors agree that I am actually insane."
    • There is a clear shot of a missing person notice about Donna Mauer on the wall at the cafe.
  • Genre Savvy: While it's not explicit, both seem to know enough about psychological thriller tropes to avoid them. Hayley easily brushes off a Hannibal Lecture, has comebacks for Jeff's other speeches, brushes aside his possible Freudian Excuse and anticipates and reverses the Candlelit Bath moment as mentioned above.
  • Gory Discretion Shot - We are never shown anything during the castration scene. There was no castration, she was bluffing.
  • Groin Attack: Easily one of the most horrible groin assaults in cinema. It also didn't happen.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Is just one of the many Breaking Speeches thrown back and forth.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard or Karmic Death, from a certain point of view.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Jeff burned his illicit photos on to CDs and placed them in a safe. In reality, encrypting the files and leaving them on the computer is significantly more secure.
  • I Lied: "...Or not."
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: At the final climax of the film, Hayley reveals that she's been toying with Jeff from the very beginning and has known exactly what he is and what he's done from before he even talked to her
  • Iconic Outfit: Hayley's red hoodie, even though she spends most of the film in her black tank top.
  • Insufferable Genius: Hayley is an honor student and you'd better remember it.
  • Jitter Cam: In one of the most violent uses ever in film, and this was before Cloverfield.
  • Karma Houdini: Obviously Hayley herself at the end.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: Hayley's iconic garment is a red hoodie that matches the Little Red Riding Hood vibe of the first part of the movie. This symbolism is the result of a lucky coincidence, however, as the hoodie was actually orange and only turned red in color correction. The film makers swear up and down this was not meant to be symbolic.
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: It's wolf vs. wolf really but one of them wears red.
  • Little Miss Badass: Hayley Stark is a particularly frightening example. She could also be categorized as a Bad Ass Fille Fatale, a Sociopathic Hero, an Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire, The Hunter, a Dark Action Girl, a Knight Templar, or even a Magnificent Bastard. At one point, Hayley takes down a gun-toting Jeff with a roll of cellophane. Cellophane, people! Ellen Page is terrifying.
  • Mind Rape: This is Hayley's main tactic, using subversive psychological warfare to break her targets and drive them to suicide.
  • Nighthawks Shot: The Nighthawks and a T-Shirt. An homage to the painting.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Judy Takuda, Sandra Oh's character, is the only character other than Jeff and Hayley to have any impact - she pops in at one point to ask about Jeff, nearly driving Hayley's carefully calculated plan off the rails.
  • Not So Different: Both main characters are vile, violent people.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: What does a child do when she finds a predator and has the means to punish him? Castration of course! It doesn't happen but she still does horrible things to him.
  • Pedo Hunt: This Red Riding Hood is hunting for wolves instead of going to grandma's house.
  • Porn Stash: Haley finds one and a shotgun in the process.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: It's been said the story was inspired by gangs of young Japanese girls that have cropped up in recent years. They lure in certain kinds of men by playing the part of "innocent-yet-naughty" schoolgirls, and once they have him alone, they beat, rob, and blackmail him.
  • Scenery Porn: The director had previously done music videos. The production looks absolutely sumptuous, even though the production was made on a shoestring- exactly the state of most music videos.
  • Serial Killer:
    • By the end of the film, Hayley has a body count of at least two men. It's strongly implied that these are not her first.
    • Jeff and his friend are heavily implied to have raped and killed the underage girl Hayley mentions. Implied being used loosely, because while Jeff denies it at first, he eventually says that it was all his friend's idea, to which Hayley replies that was the same defense the other man used after she confronted him.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The combination to Jeff's safe consists of a significant date that is also part of his IM nickname and the date of his most (emotionally) important photo shoot, written on the back of his prints of said shoot. Downplayed in that the full date/combination isn't written down so Hayley has to do some educated guesswork and trial and error to discover it.
  • Vigilante Man: Hayley hunts pedo. That's her justification for picking the victims she does.
  • Villain Protagonist: Both Jeff and Hayley are vicious people and share the story.
  • To the Pain: Hayley clearly just wants to torture him as much as she possibly can and then kill him
  • Wham Line: "Aaron told me you did it before he killed himself."

Cloverfield 100 Scariest Movie MomentsNo Country for Old Men
Grizzly ManFilms of 2005 - 2009 Herbie: Fully Loaded

alternative title(s): Hard Candy
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