Candyman (1992)

This is a far more grotesque and elegantly told work than I initially gave it credit for. For as much as we recognise Candyman as part of the Clive Barker canon, it’s actually writer/director Bernard Rose who’s responsible for the film’s most striking innovations. The race angle, Candyman’s back story and American setting are all inventions of Rose’s adaptation. Just the whole way this is shot and controlled is really classy – ranging from beautifully lit close-ups and disorientating overhead camerawork (shout out to DOP Anthony B. Richmond, who also lensed movies for Nic Roeg). The Philip Glass score is the cherry on top but in itself no small feat. How many filmmakers could convince a composer of Philip Glass’ stature to score a movie called fucking Candyman?

I think Virginia Madsen gives a terrific, visceral performance and she navigates the film’s twisty, un-predictable plotting with perfectly calibrated emoting. Some of the film’s most upsetting imagery stems from scenes most horror filmmakers wouldn’t dwell on, such as Helen being forced to undress out of her blood-soaked clothes at the police station, trembling from shock and confusion. The domestic subplot between her and Xander Berkeley – usually the least interesting and most unwanted elements in a movie like this – also has unexpected resonance and a satisfyingly silly pay-off. Again, Madsen sells it all.

Enjoyed this so much more upon rewatch. A horror film with real, fascinating issues on its mind that also contains a gamut of genuinely distressing imagery and visual ideas, as well as a desire to push genre into unexpected territory. Definitely going to voyage into the sequels now.

Watched on Arrow blu-ray.

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