It had been years since I watched Bernard Rose's Candyman. What I likely did not appreciate much in my teens is that Candyman is not only a good horror movie, it is a good movie period. With excellent performances by Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen, this is an entertaining, well-produced film with an interesting story to tell. Based on "The Forbidden" by British author and film director Clive Barker, Candyman sees a Chicago-area graduate student researching urban legends and their basis. She stumbles upon the legend of the Candyman, who is said to appear behind a person looking in a mirror who repeats his name five times. The man was the son of slaves and an artist who integrated into high society but was murdered after impregnating the daughter of a wealthy white man. The townspeople cut off the man's arm, then smeared him with honey before releasing a swarm of bees to end his life. His restless sprit returns for vengeance with bees in tow and a deadly hook in place of his missing hand.
Helen Lyle (Madsen) and friend Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) hear about the Candyman legend from a custodian at their university, and travel the Cabrini-Green housing project to learn more about Ruthie Jean, a resident allegedly killed by Candyman. Helen discovers a rash of similar murders in the area, and surmises that the project residents use the urban legend to cope with the harsh living conditions. Helen and Bernadette later attempt to summon Candyman in the bathroom of Helen's apartment, but he fails to make an appearance. As Helen enters her car in a parking deck days later, the real Candyman calls her name, warning Helen that he must shed innocent blood because she has discovered his legend. She blacks out and awakens in Cabrini-Green, where the Candyman has killed a dog and stolen a baby. In a fit of rage, the child's mother attacks Helen, who is arrested for the crimes. After Helen's husband Trevor (Xander Berkeley) bails her out of jail, the Candyman continues to haunt her and shed innocent blood.
Upon its release in 1992, Rose's film was the most successful adaptation of Barker's work not directed by Barker himself. Rose directed a few genre films, shot music videos and worked on "The Muppet Show" with Jim Henson prior to directing Candyman, and proves a talented director here. Impressive is the film's ambition. The story shifts from the Liverpool of Barker's pages to Chicago, and Cabrini-Green becomes the center of a story about economic and racial divide. The film uses Candyman to explore these weighty issues without losing sight of its goals to frighten and entertain. This is not the film many were expecting, and Candyman is better for it. The narrative is certainly not cookie-cutter horror, and the film ends up being a strange courtship of sorts for Helen and the Candyman, whose gravitas is alluring to Helen. She also becomes the suspect in a number of murders, and Candyman deliciously taunts her from the sidelines, promising that he alone can right all the wrongs.
Todd is pitch perfect for the role. He looks the part: stately, handsome and imposing, with a deep voice that rolls through the surrounds and washes over Helen. Madsen is also excellent, and is believably curious and innocent as a graduate student, with beauty and intelligence to support her character. Rose also wrote the screenplay, which keeps things tight and interesting throughout. Philip Glass's haunting score is a highlight, and cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond provides surreal imagery and finds beauty amid violence and despair. Candyman is less a slasher film than a Gothic romance with supernatural and horror elements, and it succeeds at nearly every turn. Twenty-seven years after its theatrical release, Shout! Factory releases this anticipated Collector's Edition Blu-ray of Candyman, which is a must own for genre fans.
Shout! delivers the goods, and this 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image comes from a new 2K restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative, which was supervised by Rose and Richmond. The image is gorgeously filmic, with steady grain levels and fantastic detail. Close-ups reveal intimate facial features and texture in fabrics and sets. Wide shots are deep and clean, and there is no trace of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Colors are subdued, except blood reds, and nicely saturated, and the transfer supports the dark, moody photography with excellent black levels and abundant shadow detail. Skin tones are accurate, highlights do not bloom and compression artifacts are totally absent. The unrated version includes a few insert shots of lesser quality, but these are not a distraction.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is robust and immersive. Bees buzz about the soundscape when Candyman stalks his prey, and there are plenty of environmental effects like crowd noise and weather that make subtle, effective use of the surrounds. Dialogue is reproduced clearly, without distortion or hiss, and the gorgeous score is treated properly. Action effects awaken the subwoofer, and each element is balanced with strong clarity and appropriate range. A 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix and English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray set is packed in a standard case with two-sided artwork. The slipcover replicates the newly commissioned key artwork. One disc includes the theatrical version of the film and some extras, while the second disc includes more extras and the unrated cut. Disc one kicks off with a newly recorded Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Bernard Rose and actor Tony Todd, which offers excellent production detail and anecdotes. There's also a new Commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, which sees the two horror writers critically analyze the film. Carryover extras here include a Commentary by Writer/Director Bernard Rose, Writer Clive Barker, Producer Alan Poul and Actors Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons and a Commentary by Bernard Rose that comes from a podcast hosted by the Movie Crypt's Adam Green and Joe Lynch. Sweets to the Sweets: The Candyman Mythos (23:49/SD) is a decent, longer EPK featurette, while Clive Barker: Raising Hell (10:46/SD) is an interesting chat with the writer. This first disc also includes The Heart of the Candyman (7:07/HD), a solid interview with Todd; the Theatrical Trailer (2:05/SD); TV Spots (1:36/SD); and galleries for Bernard Rose's storyboards, production stills and the original script.
On the second disc you get Be My Victim (9:47/HD), with further comments from Todd; It Was Always You, Helen (13:11/HD), a new interview with Madsen with candid insight into her experience on the film; and The Writing on the Wall: The Production Design of Candyman (6:22/HD), in which production designer Jane Ann Stewart recalls giving the film its moody look. Forbidden Flesh: The Makeup FX of Candyman (8:02/HD) uncovers some of the gory effects; A Story to Tell: Clive Barker's "The Forbidden" (18:39/HD) discusses the source material; and Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman (20:41/HD) offers thoughts from two writers on the film's unique themes of racial inequality and social tension. Finally, you get Reflections in the Mirror with Kasi Lemmons (9:48/HD), in which she recalls shooting with Madsen, and A Kid in Candyman with DeJuan Guy (13:36/HD), in which Guy recalls playing the young Cabrini-Green resident who warns Helen about Candyman.
An excellent, ambitious film with effective supernatural and horror elements, Candyman takes Clive Barker's source material and elevates it with solid direction and excellent performances from the legendary Tony Todd and a young Virginia Madsen. Shout! Factory's new Blu-ray offers great picture and sound and a ton of enlightening extras. For genre fans, this merits a DVD Talk Collector's Series badge.