HE MAY be 30 years old, but Candyman has lost little of his chilling power over the past few decades.
Writer/director Bernard Rose’s 1992 film version of esteemed fantasy author Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden is a dark, nasty slice of modern horror that taps into the world of urban legends to create something something scary, claustrophobic and really annoying.
Watching the new Shout Factory Blu-ray release confirms both how clever Rose’s inventive twist on the story was and how weird and mundane Barker’s source material really is.
In a brave but successful move, Rose shifts the setting from London to Chicago – but the simple story of two young friends doing their university thesis on urban legends remains much the same.
While digging deep into local legend, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) uncover the story of Candyman, a murderous figure who appears when you say his name five times in a mirror.
Locals say Candyman (Tony Todd) appeared to commit a few gruesome murders on the north side of town a few years ago and the two women can’t wait to see if they can summon his evil presence again.
Heading to the housing project where the murders took place, they find a young single mother named Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) who tells them everything she knows. Soon, Helen is having horrible and terrifying nightmares where she wakes up with a pool of blood and corpses at her feet. She quickly comes to the conclusion that her investigations may have driven the evildoer to murder freely once again.
As unsettling as Barker’s rather thin original concept was, Rose’s film opens up the story’s possibilities to include contemporary issues such as race relations and urban poverty and explores how fear and evil grow in places left behind. to rot by wealthy society. The dark, gray frame adds significantly to the mood of menace that hovers over almost every film image here.
The big screen Candyman also gives a bogeyman story at the heart of the horror, meaning we can go deeper and darker here than the pages of a short story could ever hope to take us – although Clive Barker was an executive producer, which ensures that the eerie spirit of the original lives on in the oppressive mood that seeps through each sequence.
Madsen is excellent as the smart, independent woman at the center of the story and Todd is terrific as the deep-voiced urban legend who just might talk you out of mirrors for life. Rose paces everything perfectly, and Philip Glass’ quasi-religious score is sinister throughout.
This new release features the film in its UK and US cuts and adds all sorts of bonus features to the mix, including a pair of commentary tracks and some awesome Candyman mythology featurettes.
Such attention to detail makes this edition the definitive repackaging of a beautiful film that still delivers the gruesome goods despite the passing years.