Hard Candy (18) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Nasty misanthropic fun. Writer Brian Nelson has wired into the public hysteria over internet "friendships" and the vulnerability of children as the basis of his screenplay, then given it not so much a twist as an almighty wrench. Following a chatroom flirtation, 14-year-old Hayley (Ellen Page) meets up with thirtysomething photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson) in a coffee-shop, and, flouting all the advice about taking lifts from strangers, goes back to his place to drink vodka. But our assumptions about hunter and prey are savagely overturned when Hayley reveals herself as half-Lolita, half-Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To reveal any more would be to spoil the shocks: suffice to say that, if you've ever seen Takeshi Miike's Audition, then brace yourself for something really quite unpleasant. First-time director David Slade keeps this two-hander as taut as piano wire, which slackens only in the final 10 minutes after one twist too many. The performances, however, merit the full five stars: Patrick Wilson plies a nicely ambiguous line in male loneliness, while Ellen Page dominates the screen with terrifying precocity. You won't forget her anytime soon.

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