Plot: The public housing project known as Cabrini Green is one of the most violent places in America, a haven for thugs, gangsters, and drug dealers. The project is also home to families and people who just need a break or two, but the violent element has take over Cabrini Green, as death is a regular visitor. The area has always had a high homicide rate, but a chain of murders that remains unsolved is unusual. Even the harshest of residents seem to be scared by these murders, amid talk of a local legend. This draws the attention of Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a student who wants to write her thesis on local urban legends. In Cabrini Green, the locals believe the recent murders are the work of Candyman, a former slave who returned from beyond the grave. If you stand in front of a mirror, say Candyman five times and then open your eyes, it is said he will appear behind you and tear you to shreds with his vicious hook. This intrigues Helen, since such a violent place has been calmed by the mere mention of this urban legend. She doesn’t normally believe in such things, but the situation offers her a chance to pen a dynamic thesis, so she ventures to Cabrini Green. When she arrives, she finds herself drawn into the legend, but with horrific results. Those around her begin to turn up dead, but could it really be Candyman behind the murders?
Entertainment Value: Cabrini Green was a dangerous, often horrific place in real life, let alone in this movie, when an urban legend has come to life to add to the locale’s violent reputation. The housing project setting helps set Candyman apart from its peers right out of the gate, as this isn’t an eerie summer camp or weekend in the woods, but a crowded, intense real location, or it was until Cabrini Green was torn down. The locale makes this movie have a more grounded, believable feel, despite some of the wild shit that goes down in Candyman. The narrative is well crafted and takes a slow burn approach at first, which helps create the on edge, but believable atmosphere, then begins a descent into the more outright horror elements. The movie touches on some social and racial issues, but doesn’t dig deep and never preaches, though again, Cabrini Green’s inclusion says a lot. The cast is quite good, with mostly serious, sincere performances that continue the more grounded tone of the material, with Virginia Madsen as a capable lead and Tony Todd in an iconic role, while Ted Raimi is hilarious in a miscast role that adds some laughs. Candyman is a well crafted, atmospheric picture and there’s a reason it is often discussed as one of the better horror movies from the 90s, so it earns a high recommendation.
This one has a couple brief topless scenes, but despite the erotic connection between a woman and an urban legend, no other sexual content. There is some violence of course, though the movie shies away from showing us the good stuff, even when Candyman busts out his signature kill. One scene has him in action as he hooks up his victim from groin to gullet, but we don’t see the ripping and the tearing. We see the victim spit up some blood and the sound design makes it sound terrible, but not much actual bloodshed is visible. There’s some other mild instances of the red stuff via various violent acts, but this movie leans more on atmosphere, so Candyman isn’t really a kill focused, body count kind of flick. The dialogue here is mostly serious, as you’d expect since the overall tone is as well, but some memorable lines still make it through. Todd is great with the ominous dialogue as Candyman, so his scenes tend to stand out the most. In the craziness realm, we have the urban legend come to life angle, the bees, and Helen’s unraveling, so some decent points go on the board. But as I’ve said before, Candyman is more serious than most horror films, so it never drifts into full on wackiness.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: This Blu-ray release has a new 2k restoration thanks to Scream Factory, so it looks quite good and makes it safe to ditch the old DVD versions. The image isn’t a revelation as some new scans reveal, but the image is sharper and seems more refined, even if just in slight ways. Some scenes still look soft, but that is likely inherent to the source and not an issue with this treatment. The visuals have a natural, well detailed look most of the time, so fans will appreciate that. This two disc set from Scream includes both the theatrical and unrated versions of the movie, as well as not one, but three audio commentary tracks. Two of the tracks are new, one with director Bernard Rose and star Tony Todd, the second with authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. The authors’ session proves to be rather dull with little worthwhile information, but the director/actor track has some interesting moments, especially as the two look back at the production. The third track is an older session ported over from previous releases, with Rose joined by director of photography Anthony B. Richmond, which is a solid listen and has a good amount of behind the scenes anecdotes. The first disc also includes two promotional featurettes, storyboards, tv spots & stills, and the film’s theatrical trailer. The second disc (which holds the unrated cut) is packed with all new supplements, with insightful interviews with Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, production designer Jane Ann Stewart, and a trio of makeup artists. There’s also a look at Clive Barker’s source story and a look back at Candyman’s creation.