Candyman (1992)

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*. I saw this one when it first came out, and I remember being quite impressed. I don’t like it quite as much today, but it still stands out as one of the better horror films of the time.
*. What makes it work, I think, is the open question of whether Candyman is “real” or just a projection of Helen’s own inner demons (he is called forth out of a mirror, after all). I don’t think the latter reading can be sustained all the way, but it is a level that most of the movie can be read on.
*. Virginia Madsen really looks like Sharon Stone here, doesn’t she? But what’s with the scene where the butch guard makes her strip out of her bloody underwear? Kink?
*. Like a lot of cheap but effective horror films, you remember it as being more violent and explicit than it really is. You only see one person get killed. The other gory scenes involve the discovery of dead bodies.
*. The wire clearly visible on Tony Todd as he smashes backward through the window is hard to miss. What a spectacular goof.
*. Clive Barker wasn’t good for very long, but he was the creative force behind a couple of the more original horror efforts that came out during this depressing period. Now I’d agree that isn’t saying very much, but it;s saying something. Alas, for the man once heralded by Stephen King as the “future of horror,” he flamed out pretty fast.

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*. I don’t think Barker’s treacle rhetoric is very deep (though Todd makes it sound heavy), and he’s obviously still writing under the influence of his fetish-fascination with pain that is “exquisite,” but the bleak setting and the urban mythology angle help make it seem fresh.
*. Hell hath no fury like . . . a grad student in pursuit of publications and tenure. Oh, and a woman scorned.
*. Almost anything will burn on a bonfire. But most of the stuff on this one struck me as being rather non-flammable. Shopping carts? Who would try and burn a shopping cart?
*. I hate the ending with all the black folk showing up at Helen’s funeral. She’s a hero now? She was the Bride of Candyman!
*. The cast and crew on the commentary track spend a lot of time talking about the racial angle, but even at the time of the film’s release I didn’t find this groundbreaking or particularly noteworthy.
*. Yes, it’s sexual. Helen is obviously unsatisfied with her nerdy hubby (who has other interests anyway), so why not move on to a new lover? And clearly she’ll “never go back,” as the saying goes.
*. But there are limits to a sexual reading. I’m not buying any of what Bernard Rose has to say on the matter: “You know he [Candyman] has basically this sort of huge cock on his hand and, um, he kills people by sticking it in them, in their orifices, that’s part of the movie, I think that’s partly why people like it.” Please. A giant hook is not a huge cock, and he doesn’t stick it in any orifices, he tears new ones. This sort of analysis is so common, and so ridiculous.
*. I’ve never been a big Philip Glass fan, but his music really works with this material. It’s the musical equivalent to Barker’s portentous prose, and plays well off the desolate (and oddly barren) ghetto environment.
*. The bees were real, and look the better for it. Rose redeems himself with his acid commentary on CGI: “Let’s face if folks, CGI looks so phoney. I mean who . . . it’s going to be like the blight . . . late ’90s, early twenty-first century films are going to look so dated in twenty years with all this really cheesy CGI work that goes on in films now.”

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