"Who can take a rusty hook, and sprinkle it with bees? Cover it in blood and a gut or two? The Candyman, The Candyman can…" I think they should have resurrected Sammy Davis Jr. to do a new version of his hit song for this special edition DVD, but I guess we can't have everything.
The movie, which came out in 1992, follows the story of Helen (Virginia Madsen) a grad student working on a thesis about urban legends, with the help of her friend and fellow student Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons). While interviewing people around campus about their experiences with citified folklore, she discovers the local legend of the Candyman. The Candyman was Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), an ex-slave who was wrongfully accused and murdered by vigilantes in the 1800s and now haunts the rundown projects of the Cabrini Green ghetto. Legend has it that if you look into a mirror and say Candyman's name five times, he will appear behind you and cut you in two. A disbelieving Helen does this on a lark, and while Candyman does not bisect her, all hell does indeed break loose.
Produced by horror maven Clive Barker and based on his short story The Forbidden (which can be found in Volume 5 of his renowned Books of Blood anthologies), Candyman has everything going for it. It's got a capable writer/director in Bernard Rose (who went to make one of my favorite historical dramas, Immortal Beloved), very good actors playing solid characters, BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond, and a celebrated composer in Philip Glass. It's certainly above-par in the talent department, especially for a horror genre movie.
Having heaped on those accolades, I must confess the movie just doesn't work for me. It never has -- a core Clive Barker fan, I think I was first in line to see it during its theatrical release -- I've always found it inexplicably tedious and never suspenseful or scary enough. Despite everything it has going for it, the pieces just don't quite fit and the ending feels tacked on. I was hoping that seeing it again, now that I knew what to expect, might change my feelings about Candyman. It didn't. Todd definitely shines as the villain with his regal but menacing bearing, but as a character he's far too informative: Rose, as the screenwriter, commits the cardinal author's sin of telling and not showing.
Still, for fans of the movie I do recommend this new special edition DVD. It's got informative and entertaining brand-new interviews with Barker, Rose, Madsen, Lemmons, Todd, and producer Alan Poul. The over-the-movie commentary is pretty much a retread of what's said in the interviews, so casual fans with probably want to just stick with those. First up is the nearly half-hour "Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos" which talks about how the story was conceived, how the movie was made, and how it was received. Rose describes audiences as screaming out loud and running up the aisles because "they just couldn't take it anymore." Hm, sounds like he took a page from the publicity department of 1959's The Tingler -- I'm surprised he didn't say people also had heart attacks and miscarriages. I was there at the theater in 1992, and I saw nothing of the kind. Still, some of the over-the-top stories are amusing; Rose further states that Madsen was literally hypnotized for her scenes with the Candyman, and that Glass did not know he was scoring a horror movie until it was finished. It's a fun way to integrate some "movie urban legends" into the mix.
The shorter companion featurette, "Clive Barker: Raising Hell" is a bio of the auteur's career shown from the very beginning (film clips of horror movies he made when he was very young) to his current interest in illustrating his novels (stills of his fanciful paintings). Topping off the whole additional release affair is Bernard Rose's storyboards set to Glass's music.
(by Staci Layne Wilson)