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Candyman – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

One of the biggest holes in the United Stats Blu-ray library has been 1992’s Candyman, inspired by the Clive Barker short story “The Forbidden”. Available on a straightforward UK Blu-ray for many years, its come as a shocker considering its iconic villain (Played by the brilliant Tony Todd) and the fact it is considered one of the greatest horror films of the 1990s and all time. FINALLY, this is drought is over and it’ll will be releasing in spectacular fashion on November 20th when Scream Factory brings their 2-Disc Blu-ray to the table. Last month saw Arrow release a deluxe edition for the UK, but now its Scream Factory’s turn to wow us. Pre-order is available for this MUST HAVE title by clicking the Amazon link following the review. 

Film 

Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle befriends Anne-Marie McCoy while researching superstitions in a housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. From Anne-Marie, Helen learns about the Candyman, a knife-wielding figure of urban legend that some of her neighbors believe to be responsible for a recent murder. After a mysterious man matching the Candyman’s description begins stalking her, Helen comes to fear that the hooked hand legend may be all too real.

Many will decry the first half of the 1990s, between Silence of the Lambs and Scream, as bottom feeder period in the genre’s cinematic landscape. I’ve always felt that’s a bit too harsh. The only thing not going well for horror was that its icons of the previous decade (Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and company) were waning in both quality and box office receipts. Newcomers weren’t setting the world on fire either, unless someone wants to go to bat for the Leprechaun. That is, except for one; Candyman. And when people go on about this “bad” stretch, I always point out that the best horror film of the decade was released in this time.

There’s no shame in admitting this, and I’ve always shared; Candyman scared the absolute piss out of me after I saw for the first time. It frightened me to the lengths that I was genuinely afraid to enter a bathroom, especially with a mirror present, for a few weeks after it. Bernard Rose’s film based on a Clive Barker short story swept me in and brought all sorts of real life and fantastical horror that made me a firm believer even though I knew this was a complete work of fiction. But, it was effective enough that the 0.000001% of my brain that left open a “But, what if…” was winning the battle for a bit.

Candyman was an honest story that felt like it truly was taking place in the real world. The characters seemed genuine and it introduced the fantastical in such a way that it made it feel practical. The villain was brought to us with a careful build up and search. We watch as Virginia Madsen’s Helen goes from a skeptical outsider to a firm believer pulled in and becoming a part of the continued lore. Different from what came before, this was a slasher film that for adults. This was essentially in the Freddy Krueger mold with a speaking monster arriving in visions and providing dream-like sequences that would result in actual consequences in the real world. A film of this nature works two-fold as it hits the compelling adult notes and for the younger audience, they feel like they are invested in something more astute and mature. Effectively, both age ranges are frightened.

Tony Todd has long been one of my favorite performers in film/television and this was the movie where I decided after, I wanted to watch everything he does if I’m able (Enemy Territory rocks! Give it a Blu-ray release!). I had seen Night of the Living Dead (Which I enjoyed him a lot in) but didn’t put 2 and 2 together right away. In his signature role, he brings some of the most incredible fear and menace, but what he also carries with him that his fellow monster icons don’t is a genuine sense of sadness, despair and understanding. That’s not just in the script, its in his voice and his facial expressions and body movement. This isn’t some late sequel turn or new spin that tends to happen with monster, its who the character the demonic ghostly appearance of Daniel Robitaille actually is. And that might be what helps make him the most terrifying of all.

Surrounding Todd in the film is a fantastic lead performance by Virginia Madsen, and its her ability to balance fear and intrigue together that help make the film so compelling. The chemistry of a monster and a female is something long brushed with going back to King Kong, but until The Shape of Water, no better had it been done that in this movie. There are also some terrific character actors appearing in this movie, including the terrific Xander Berkeley doing another solid a-hole turn. What’s best about the cast and a credit to Bernard Rose as well, is how lived in and real life everyone makes this film feel at every single turn. It makes the violence and gore that happen in it feel like an actual crime scene and they truly sting to look at as you have felt that these are actual humans and not film characters being mutilated.

For many years, I had said Candyman was one of my favorite horror films of all time, one of the best ever and the best Clive Barker inspired film. While great praise, I’ve been selling it short. This is one of my flat out favorite films of all time. Everything clicks on every level with things I hadn’t mentioned; set design, a BEAUTIFUL score, special effects and iconography. Its a perfect film to me, I wouldn’t change a thing. And best of all, its one of the scariest films I’d ever seen and really really got to me as I struggled to look at a mirror in the dark or late a night for a while. There’s no higher praise for horror than that.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Candyman‘s United States debut comes via a “2K restoration from a new 4K scan of the original negative, supervised and approved by writer/director Bernard Rose and director of photography Anthony B. Richmond”. In short; they done good. Candyman looks incredibly cinematic and is full of rich details and textures in the new image. Its crisper and sharper than its ever been with fantastic saturation in the presentation of both its blacks and colors. I’m pretty impressed with how it looks here. I have not seen the recent Arrow Video release of the film, so I cannot provide comparison and I’m not one who judges my whole Blu-ray life 100% by paused screen caps either (I dig motion).

Depth:  The movie features some terrific depth of field work both inside and out. The notable scene in Cabrini Green where Virginia Madsen is seen through the hole in the wall with the camera pulling back to showcase the graffiti are looks wonderfully spacious, confident and three dimensional for example. No issues with crushing occur at all.

Black Levels: Blacks find themselves very deep and well saturated. No issues occur with the loss of details, and anything that does isn’t a distraction or much to be missed. Since a lot of this movie occurs in the shadows, the overall result is pretty gorgeous.

Color Reproduction: Candyman features a palette that is very urban and natural, keeping a bold look with mostly dingy or “normal” colors. However, there are some great moments with pop, including a blue sweater Virginia Madsen wears and some other articles throughout. Lights in windows, lamps and such in the dark glow well and the fire in the finale roars off your screen beautifully.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, aside from obviously filtered sequences, and keep appearance throughout the whole film. Features like scarring, stubble, lip texture, wrinkles, make-up brushing, dried blood and more come through quite clear. Special effects hold up quite well and look very natural still in this high quality presentation restored image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Candyman‘s 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is likely the same one found on the Arrow release. The previous region-free UK edition had only the 2.0 stereo track, so we are being treated to an upgrade here. Its a very good track that spaces out the room and feels free. The balance of the score, effects and vocals is outstanding here and every one of them comes to the forefront when need be with a confident contribution that works in concert with the other aspects, never dominating. Candyman has never sounded better.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Some good booming comes in the form of the gothic chorus, musical stings and many attacking or gouging moments in the film. The sub handles them with a good rumbling sense of accuracy and never is overdone.

Surround Sound Presentation: While a lot of the film occurs up front, it does feature some playfulness with the rear channels. It never forgets them and brings them in both naturally and for surprise. Candyman’s voice will pop up from different angles of the area. Also, the score is built up in concert with every channel and sounds lovely. Movement on screen is accurately displayed in both motion and volume placement as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Tony Todd’s voice overs are especially deep, rumbly, clear and haunting.

Extras 

Candyman – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Disc set with reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer-Director Bernard Rose and Actor Tony Todd
  • With Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
  • With Director Bernard Rose, Author Clive Barker, Producer Alan Poul and Actors Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons
  • With Director Bernard Rose, Moderated By The Movie Crypt’s Adam Green and Joe Lynch

Sweets To The Sweets: The Candyman Mythos (SD, 23:49) – This is a pretty solid retrospective mini doc on the film with good honesty and insights with director Bernard Rose, producer Alan Poul, executive producer Clive Barker, actors Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd and Kasi Lemmons. It VERY briefly touches on the sequels at the end.

Clive Barker: Raising Hell (SD, 10:46) – An interview with Clive Barker that has him going over his life and inspirations along the way that gave him the drive to create the horrors he would create in life.

The Heart of Candyman (HD, 7:07) – This Tony Todd interview is actually from the 2014 session done for the Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

Bernard Rose’s Storyboards (HD, 5:22) – 

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:05) 

TV Spots (SD, 1:36)

Still Gallery (HD, 5:19)

Original Script (BD-Rom)

Disc 2 – Director’s Cut

Be My Victim (HD, 9:47) – A new interview with Tony Todd who says they were originally going for “an Eddie Murphy type” for the role of Candyman. He then lays out stuff he’s kind of talked about in the past in terms of his take on the role

It Was Always You, Helen (HD, 13:11) – An interview with Virginia Madsen. She goes into good detail and conviction in recounting her experiences on the film and her admiration for it both then and now. She also goes into a good digression on working with bees. Oh and she said they wanted her rounder for this film so she ate a lot of pizza during it.

The Writing On The Wall: The Production Design Of Candyman (HD, 6:22) – An interview with production designer Jane Ann Stewart.  She gives a hilarious account of trying to find someone who did a “black movie” to do the job and then a white person showed up, so she ended up doing it herself. Stewart then goes through her challenges and going above and beyond and impressing people with her work, like the fire scene toward the end.

Forbidden Flesh: The Makeup FX Of Candyman (HD, 8:02) – Interviews with special makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Gary J. Tunnicliffe and Mark Coulier. They went to this movie directly following their production wrap on Hellraiser III. Here they go over their individual contributions and how they pulled off many of the sequences and gore effects used in the film.

A Story To Tell: Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden” (HD, 18:39) – Writer Douglas E. Winter on Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood and Candyman’s source story, “The Forbidden”. Touching a lot on the book but also on the attempts to adapt it for the screen from the filmmakers. He goes over both Barker’s angle and Rose’s, as well as some of the pushback given by the studio and the triumph of getting the film made with such success.

Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman (HD, 20:41) – A Critical Analysis Of The Film With Writers Tananarive Due And Steven Barnes. This one really is a good deep dive into the racial perceptions and connotations in the film in both the positive and negative light. It really had some things that I wouldn’t have thought about before and gave a fresh perspective on the film that I really hadn’t been studying on or looking at in this way. This might be the strongest featurette on the whole release.

Reflections In The Mirror With Kasi Lemmons (HD, 9:48) – This new interview with the actress talks her career achievements and where she thought she’d be with her career at the time. She thought Candyman was revolutionary for the time and how she enjoyed his history. Its a pretty nice thoughtful interview up to par with the Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen ones. She focuses on the Virginia Madsen / Bernard Rose relationship working on the movie and says its one of the main things she’s retained in her career as a director.

A Kid In Candyman With Dejuan Guy (HD, 13:36) – The actor talks over his auditioning process, the workarounds and limitations of child acting with the movie. Like all the other actors he gives his thoughts on Cabrini Green, even though he admits its mostly from documentaries as he was a kid and didn’t understand any of it while he was there. Its a pretty lengthy interview and he’s retained an impressive amount of information on what you can tell was a very big and important moment in his life.

Summary 

Candyman is one of my favorite films of all time. In the annals of Blu-ray, it seemed to have been deemed as “not important” for many years by the studio owning the distribution rights despite a widespread fandom and critical praise. Nobody in the film has ever been shy about it and have nothing but great things to say about the film and willingly come back to cherish the time spent on it. FINALLY, we have the film on Blu-ray in US AND it was given complete care and a definitive release to hold onto. With how long this took to come out and the unknown future of what physical media’s presence will be like the in the future, I would grab this release immediately and breath a sigh of relief that you own a fantastic film like this with a great presentation and bonus features.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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