Hard Candy

There's a wonderful moment near the end of this film when Hayley, the 14-year old protagonist, who is much given to costume changes throughout the narrative (to underscore the protean nature of teenage identity and sexuality) puts on a red hooded sweatshirt and rolls down a wooded hill. It's a celebration of sorts, for the character and for the film as a whole, which is a smart, edgy reworking of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf is a 30-something man who meets her in a chat room and arranges to meet her in person. He's wearing a disguise of sorts (as does the wolf in granny's nightgown) but so is she. Little does he realize that in her bulging schoolgirl's book bag she has things a little more dangerous than the cookies Little Red usually carries through the wood. She's brought costumes, weapons, and tools with which to wreak her own revenge upon the wolf. The film brilliantly plays on the viewer's assumptions, biases, and sympathies -- it wants to make you uncomfortable, in order to complicate and enrich its message about predators. It's a tense psychological thriller that contains a couple of surprises. Not for the fainthearted, but well worth it.