Candyman (1992)

2017 #152
Bernard Rose | 95 mins | TV (HD) | 1.85:1 | USA & UK / English | 18 / R

Candyman

Written and directed by a Brit and based on a Clive Barker short story set in Liverpool, horror movie Candyman relocates its story to Chicago, where its race-related themes are arguably more pertinent. How well it handles that angle is another matter…

It stars Virginia Madsen as Helen, a student completing a post-grad thesis on urban legends, which is when she encounters the story of Candyman: supposedly he was a slave who was mutilated, given a hook for a hand, and then murdered, and can now be summoned by saying his name five times in a mirror, at which point he’ll kill the person who summoned him. Why you’d want to do that I don’t know. Anyway, Helen’s investigations lead her to the Cabrini-Green housing projects and a spate of murders that seem to fit Candyman’s MO. Could the legend be real…?

Candyman is over a quarter of a century old now, but it could hardly feel more current with its intellectual female lead and its story based around urban legends of poor black people — it’s ripe for commentary on feminism and racism. How well it handles these is another matter, because I’m not sure how much it has to say about either. Indeed, there’s gotta be room for a remake that tackles the racial tension stuff head-on and engages it more thoroughly. I guess the film just isn’t well enough remembered at this point, because otherwise surely someone would be on it already. It’s such a shame that so many great movies are subjected to inferior remakes when what we really need are more Ocean’s Elevens: middling-to-poor movies with good ideas remade with greater class so as to improve them.

Do you bee-lieve?

That said, I wouldn’t personally describe Candyman as “middling-to-poor”. What it may lack in societal commentary it makes up for as an atmospheric and unpredictable horror movie. I say that because it changes its style entirely halfway through: at first it’s very much an “is it real?” story, with our heroine investigating legends that don’t appear to be true (she says the name five times and nothing happens). The horror is psychological rather than gory. But then (spoilers!) Candyman does turn up (of course he does), at which point Helen becomes suspected of the murders, while Candyman manipulates her and tries to persuade her to become his victim. It’s an interesting development, and both halves present a captivating style of horror movie.

Such a switcheroo also means you don’t know where the story’s going to go or how it’s going to end, which is always an unusual sensation in a genre movie. It contributes to it being an effective piece of horror as well. It’s creepy and atmospheric, as well as containing straight-up jumps and gore. It’s all elevated by a fantastic score from Philip Glass, which helps lend a particular type of mood — kind of religious, almost; mythic.

Candyman spawned sequels, as most horrors seemed to back in the day, but no one seems to really talk about it anymore. That’s actually something of a shame, because it has a different texture to most horror movies, as well as some thematic points that are as socially resonate as ever.

4 out of 5

Advertisements

The Global Monthly Update for November 2017

Multiple helpings of Eastern action, French sci-fi, German horror, South American-themed Disney, a double-dose of Batman and, appropriately, a 3D trio all feature in my viewing for the penultimate month of 2017.


#152 Candyman (1992)
#153 Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)
#154 Awakenings (1990)
#155 Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends (2014), aka Rurōni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen
#156 Passengers 3D (2016)
#157 Justice League (2017)
#158 The Great Wall 3D (2016)
#159 Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963), aka Zatôichi kyôjô-tabi
#160 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 3D (2017)
#161 Saludos Amigos (1942)
#162 Tea for Two (1950)
#163 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), aka Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
The Great Wall

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

.


  • 12 new films this month mean that November isn’t 2017’s worst (a dishonour retained by September’s 10), but it’s far from its best (it’s 9th out of 11).
  • That’s below the 2017 average (previously 15.1, now 14.8) and the rolling average for the last 12 months (previously 14.58, now 14.42). Oh well.
  • On the bright side, it beats my November average, in the process raising it from 8.44 to 8.8. That means it’s still one of three months with an all-time average below 10, but if I watch 11 films in November 2018 then that’ll change.
  • Also, further to what I was saying in July about dates on which I’ve never watched a film, November 4th is now also struck off the list. Hurrah!
  • Zatoichi the Fugitive is my second Zatoichi film this year. That means that since I started watching the 25-film series in 2013 I’ve averaged… 0.8 films a year. Oh dear. If I maintain that rate I won’t finish until 2044.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: supposedly the first true horror film and the most famous example of German expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. While it’s very atmospheric, I don’t think it entirely holds up.
  • No WDYMYHS film this month. There’s only one left though, so next month it is.



The 30th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month wasn’t an all-timer for quality — while I did enjoy most of the films I watched, very little jumps forward as a solid gold favourite. It comes down to a toss-up between two 2017 releases that each met with critical indifference but which I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy very much, especially with 3D really showing off their spectacle. On balance, I think the more interesting was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
In a mirror image to the above, there was nothing truly terrible. This category is considerably easier to decide on, though, because I was so thoroughly disappointed by Batman vs. Two-Face.

Most Underrated ’90s Film of the Month
Sure, not enough people talk about Awakenings (as I wrote in my review), but I was even more surprised to find that Candyman is a highly atmospheric horror movie that deserves to be better remembered.

Biggest Missed Obvious Solution of the Month
Considering they reshot almost all of his scenes anyway, they should’ve just had Superman be reborn with Henry Cavill’s silly moustache in Justice League. I mean, maybe it wouldn’t’ve been a good idea, but it’d’ve been a laugh.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For the fifth time this year, this award goes to the TV roundup. The headliner, and undoubtedly what attracted the most views, was Stranger Things 2. Also in the post was Peaky Blinders series three — another series that I know draws a lot of hits. It was further bolstered by covering Red Dwarf XII and an episode of Rick and Morty, plus Arrow, Bounty Hunters, Castle, Detectorists, The Flash, The Good Place, and Upstart Crow. (The highest new film review was Justice League at 9th.)



#41 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
#42 Baby Driver (2017)
#43 Spider-Man: Homecoming 3D (2017)
#44 Men in Black (1997)
#45 Men in Black II (2002)

I hadn’t intended to embark on the Men in Black trilogy, particularly, but at a loss one night I settled on rewatching the first because why not? That led to the sequel, but not the third as yet. I’ve never seen it, so maybe next month.


I’ve written a list, I’m checking it twice — not of who’s been naughty or nice, but of films I intended to watch in 2017 and haven’t got round to yet. La La Land, Your Name, the new Beauty and the Beast… it goes on much longer than that. How many will I get through?

Plus: thirteen days to go ’til a galaxy far, far away…