Fantastic Fest Interview: Shiri Appleby On the Sheer Terror of ‘THE DEVIL’S CANDY’

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4guide_the_devils_candy1__largePreston Barta // Editor

One of the gems we uncovered at Fantastic Fest this year was THE DEVIL’S CANDY, starring Ethan Embry and Shiri Appleby. The film takes what you think you know and flips it on its head, giving us something wonderfully twisted and satisfying.

The film sees the story of a struggling painter (Embry), his wife (Appleby) and their young daughter (Kiara Glasco) as they move to their dream house in rural Texas. However, they soon find themselves targeted by evil forces and the house’s previous occupants.

With its rockin’ heavy metal tunes, exceptional performances from its cast, and nerve-racking exploration, THE DEVIL’S CANDY is a real treat. It features a sharp script written by Sean Byrne (THE LOVED ONES) with visuals that vividly back his words. There is never a dull moment amidst its dark and disturbed nature.

Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Appleby, who plays Astrid in the film, about the darkness of the material, working with the charismatic Embry, and the things that stick with you for a lifetime.

Shiri Appleby as Rachel on UnREAL. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

Shiri Appleby as Rachel on UnREAL. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

Like UnREAL, I wonder if diving into material like this has any kind of psychological effects? Does diving into the manipulative mind of Rachel in UnREAL or dark material within THE DEVIL’S CANDY mess with your mind at all, even if temporarily?

Shiri Appleby: “There’s no way not to be drained emotionally and physically from either role. Spending your day manipulating your emotions takes a toll. Thankfully I am able to separate and not have it bring me down personally. I try really hard not to bring my work home with me but you can’t fight exhaustion or the wear on your emotions.”

Do you have the capacity to be scared of your own movie?

Appleby: “Sure! I’m not great at watching horror movies to begin with so I get scared just like anyone else. You can’t fight a great story, editing or score no matter how hard you try.”

After doing this movie, does it make you hold your daughter a little closer?

Appleby: “At the end of an emotional shooting day I always feel lucky to be coming home to a family that loves and supports me so much. It’s always wonderful to hang up my hat and return to my priorities and the people who need me.”

I like how what connects Jesse (Embry) and Zooey (Glasco) in the film is heavy metal music. I know your daughter is very young and you have another on the way, but what connects you with her the most at this point?

Appleby: “What connects us is being child and mother. We have a fun bond and love to spend our days together at the park, dancing, getting creative– really enjoying each other! I feel lucky to be raising a child who responds to so many of the things Jon [Shook] and I love and value… like good food!”

What happens to Zooey in the film is something that I imagine would stick with you for a lifetime. Are there any stories that have stuck with you that you feel have really shaped you into who you are today?

Appleby: “There are a ton of things that have happened to me throughout life that have left a mark. Getting bit by a dog at a young age has made me uncomfortable with animals. Getting pulled down in a rip current at Zuma Beach has made me unsure in the water. Getting applause and recognition for my work has give me drive to succeed even more. And the list could go on and on.”

Shirri Appleby and Ethan Embry star in THE DEVIL’S CANDY. Courtesy of IFC Midnight.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ethan before and he’s so full of life. Do you have any great memories of working with him on this film?

Appleby: “Ethan is full of energy and passion and knows how to push himself. He was so wonderful with my daughter and I. We would BBQ at the end of the night, grilling and unwinding together. He’s a big kid with a huge heart!”

In horror classics such as THE EXORCIST, POLTERGEIST and THE OMEN — pretty much any horror movie that has some religious aspect to it — there have been many urban legends and myths of on-set incidences. Working in the genre, did you find anything out of the ordinary going on on-set?

Appleby: “I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary going on on-set of DEVIL’S CANDY, but set-life is nothing is not unordinary!”

Horror films were kind of my babysitters growing up; I was always watching movies I shouldn’t have been with a big popcorn in hand. Was it the same for you? Did you grow up liking the genre?

Appleby: “A friend of mine showed me A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in first or second grade and I’ve been scared of the genre ever since.”

THE DEVIL’S CANDY is now available to view On Demand.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.