Directed by Bernard Rose
Produced by Steve Golin, Sigurjon Sighvattson & Alan Poul
Written by Bernard Rose
Director of Photograpy Anthony B. Richmond
Music by Philip Glass
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Kasi Lemmons & Xander Berkeley
1992/99 mins/Color/DD 2.0
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment DVD
As a lifelong horror movie fan, I hate to say anything disparaging about the genre. But, let's face, many scary movies are juvenile affairs which are aimed squarely at teenage audiences. Even if the film does tackle mature themes, the characters themselves are rarely out of their teens (save for the old man who must help them). So, it's very refreshing to see Hollywood release a horror film that not only deals with serious themes, but has an all-adult cast as well. And it was nice to see CANDYMAN become a hit and a cultural phenomenon, even though there wasn't a teenager in sight. Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment is now bringing CANDYMAN back to DVD in a new Special Edition.
CANDYMAN tells the story of Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a graduate student who is working on her thesis with fellow student, Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons). The two are studying urban legends, and their effect on society. Helen hears the story of "Candyman", and is intrigued. As the legend goes, if one stands in front of a mirror and says "Candyman" five times, he will appear behind you. Helen then learns that the residents of the notorious Cabrini Green projects believe that "Candyman" is responsible for several murders there. So, Helen and Bernadette visits the projects and see the site of the supposed "Candyman" murders. Through interviews with locals and colleague of her college professor husband, Trevor (Xander Berkeley), Helen learns that "Candyman" was once a wealthy and educated Black man who fell in love with a White woman. Because of this, he was tortured and murdered, and has since walked the Earth seeking vengeance. Ever the skeptic, Helen finds the "Candyman" legend interesting, but doesn't believe that it's true. This all changes when Candyman (Tony Todd) appears to Helen, determined to make her believe. To do this, Candyman takes control of Helen's life, causing horrific things to happen, and placing Helen in jeopardy. As those around Helen begin to lose trust in her, she begins to realize that Candyman may, in fact, be real.
As noted above, CANDYMAN is a serious and mature film that rarely strays from that path. Sure, the overall premise of the film, an urban legend about a killer who comes to those who call him, may be somewhat silly, but CANDYMAN plays it straight, creating a dark and disarming atmosphere. Writer/director Bernard Rose has done a good job of maintaining the air of danger which permeates the writings of Clive Barker, giving us a look at the dark side of urban life and humanity. The movie contains no true levity to speak of and must qualify as one of the most downbeat mainstream horror films of the last 15 years. The first half of the film is somewhat dry and almost clinical, but once "Candyman" begins to torture Helen, the film takes on a dreamlike quality and the viewer is sucked into Helen's plight.
While CANDYMAN is certainly an original and engaging film, every time that I watch it, I come away with the same misgivings. Chief amongst these is "Candyman" himself. The film doesn't even seem sure of what the physical rules are for this character. Is he a ghost? How can he be tangible one minute and invisible the next? I've personally never found the character to be that impressive and don't understand why he's often lumped in with the other recognizable horror legends. And there are some plot-holes in the film, mostly surrounding the supposed "search" for the missing baby. Also, as much as we are asked to empathize with Helen in the latter half of the film, the fact that she made this mess herself makes it difficult for the viewer to commit. CANDYMAN is a truly visceral film which will have an emotional effect on the viewer, and Bernard Rose and company should be applauded for sticking to their guns and making a horror film for grown ups. Still, the movie isn't perfect, but those looking for something outside of the typical slasher film will enjoy it.
CANDYMAN jumps onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This new release replaces the old DVD, which came out in August, 2001. (I haven't seen this older DVD, so I can't comment on the video and audio quality compares between the two.) The image looks OK, but there is a noticeable amount of grain on the picture. Still, the image is much sharper and clearer than any VHS version. The image is somewhat flat, but the colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark. There is some subtle artifacting to the image, but this isn't as distracting as the grain. The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track, which supplies clear dialogue and sound effect. The track displays no hissing or distortion. The surround sound effects come mostly from musical cues, and the stereo separation from the front channels is good.
This new Special Edition DVD contains a nice selection of extra features. We start with an audio commentary which features writer/director Bernard Rose, executive producer/novelist Clive Barker, producer Alan Poul, and stars Virgnia Madsen, Kasi Lemmons, & Tony Todd. Please note that these participants aren't all together and the comments have been edited into a continuous commentary. Because of this edited nature, the comments are rarely scene-specific. Given that, there is some good information divulged on this track, as the group discusses the story (and its underlying meanings), the locations, and the actors. However, it would have been better if they had been together, giving the discussion some spontaneity. Next up is a 24-minute making-of featurette entitled "Sweets to the Sweet: The CANDYMAN Mythos". This segment features comments from all of those who participated in the commentary (repeating some of their comments at times). There is little behind-the-scenes footage, but the participants do a good job of painting a picture for the audience of what the (apparently harrowing) production was like. They also talk about the significance of the story and "Candyman's" place in horror history. I don't want to give away too much, but the most interesting aspect here is the revelation that Madsen was hypnotized during the scenes where she confronted "Candyman". "Clive Barker: Raising Hell" (11 minutes) is an interview with the renowned author where he discusses his career, the origins of his love for horror, his view of how horror tales affect society, and his transition to author and filmmaker. There are clips from Barker's early films, like "Salome" and "The Forbidden". The extras are rounded out by Bernard Rose's Storyboards and bonus trailers for other Columbia/Tri-Star horror titles.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©