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 it is not made absolutely clear in the movie, so viewers will abide by this trope at first), 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.
- 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 used a shotgun to blow the head off a child molestor, would anyone think less of her for it?
- 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's also didn't happen.
- Hannibal Lecture: Is just one of the many Breaking Speeches thrown back and forth.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Juno / Ariadne and Raoul / Nite Owl II. In the same movie.
- Hoist by His Own Petard or Karmic Death, from a certain point of view.
- 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.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: What does a child do when she finds a predator and has the means to punish him? Castration of course! [[spoile: 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 padeo. 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."
- Word Of God - Breaks the ambiguity to some degree, while enhancing the Misaimed Fandom aspects. At one point, the filmmakers as much as said that both characters are villain protagonists. Jeff is a pedophile, child molester, and possible murderer; Hayley is a fledgling serial killer. Both of them are intended to be more or less equally sympathetic and repugnant; neither are remotely heroic.
- Word of Saint Paul: In an interview, Ellen Page confirms that she played the character as a 14 year old on what she believes is a righteous crusade, lashing out because of her anger at uncaught pedophiles. In fact, she refused the line "Maybe not even fourteen" because she believed it went against the character she had built through her performance. She also commented on how cruel her character is. Hayley clearly enjoys everything she does to Jeff, making her a sadist either way. Page has also discredited her comparing Hayley to Joan of Arc, saying "I said "Joan of Arc" because it was a stupid question and it was the first thing I thought of." Also worth nothing that Page and the script writer had vastly different opinions of Hayley.