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|“||Torture? Is this torture to you? Because wow, I guess you've never read anything about Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, because this... this is nothing.||„|
|~ Hayley Stark To Jeff.|
|“||I am every little girl that you ever watched. Touched. Hurt. Screwed. Killed!||„|
|~ Hayley to Jeff when he asks who she is.|
Hayley Stark is the main protagonist villain and anti-heroine of the 2006 thriller film Hard Candy. She is a 14-year-old girl who flirts with pedophiles online, luring them into a sense of security before she captures them and tortures them physically and psychologically before forcing them to commit suicide.
The film focuses on her doing this to a photographer named Jeff who was involved in the disappearance of another girl. Hayley drugs him, ties him down and seemingly castrates him, though it turns out that this was not real and she was doing that for psychological torture. Hayley then knocks Jeff out again with a stun gun, and he awakens standing on a chair with a noose around his neck.
Hayley tells him that he must commit suicide to keep his dignity, otherwise she will do it for him and expose his crimes to the public. However, before she gets the chance, a neighbor comes to the door forcing Hayley to go and answer it. While she is gone, Jeff frees himself and when she returns, he chases her to the roof. There, Hayley holds him off with his own gun and tells him that she has called Jeff's ex–girlfriend, (under the guise of a LAPD Lieutenant).
Hayley repeats her earlier offer, either Jeff hang himself, (Hayley has tied the noose onto the chimney), or she will run to Jenel "crying and screaming". Hayley places the noose around Jeff's neck and he prepares to jump off the roof. However, before jumping to his death, Jeff admits that he did not kill the girl himself, but he had allowed an accomplice to because he "wanted to take pictures but he wouldn't let me". Jeff offers to help track that person down if Hayley will let him live. However Hayley reveals that she had already found the accomplice and made him kill himself and that before he had hanged himself, had accused Jeff of murdering Donna (the girl who disappeared and whose photograph Hayley found in Jeff's safe).
At that moment the ex–girlfriend arrives. Jeff then kills himself, on the condition that Hayley will not reveal his crimes to others, which she promises, however as soon as he is dead she revokes that promise.
Hayley Stark by her own admission is insane, extremely calculating in her actions, (tracking down Jeff and capturing him on a day when she knew that the neighbors would not be home) and very intelligent, (she is able to discover Jeff's safe and the combination to it by using observation and logic, and realizes that Jeff didn't have any photos of girls on his computer because that would be the first place the police would look if he were ever caught). Hayley may have studied Psychology, as she is able to anticipate Jeff attempting to escape if he were left alone and unintentionally confirming his guilt of being a pedophile when he did not call the police for help. However, this may just be another example of Hayley's insanity, (giving her reason to further justify her actions as Hayley is also a criminal therefore she can think like one). It is left unclear what truly motivates Hayley's actions: whether she is a sick, demented sadist who merely chooses pedophiles as victims because victimizing them is seen as more "acceptable", or if Hayley herself may have been a victim of a paedophile, causing her to go to extreme lengths to track down, capture, torture and eventually force them to kill themselves.
Despite torturing Jeff, it is shown that Hayley is still capable of showing emotions (even to a small extent) such as pity (ensuring that Jeff is castrated with anesthetic) and compassion (giving Jeff water when he first awakens from the drug Hayley gave him and after Jeff's "castration").
Furthermore, Hayley does not appear to actually enjoy torturing Jeff, as she tells him after she pretends to castrate him, "This is no laughing matter but I bet Donna is smiling a bit though". She is also shown to be civil when talking to Jeff, (giving him a website to look at to help with being castrated, and offering him a second chance to avoid prison (even after Jeff tries to kill her she does not kill him directly).