Maybe it was because it came out amid the fierce hype for Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, which flamboyantly reverted the horror genre away from rural America and outer space back to the Gothic castles and candlelit cobblestone roads of the past. Or maybe it was because, thanks to the Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. riots, urban racial tensions were once again at the front of national consciousness. But when Candyman (directed by the visionary Bernard Rose, who was responsible for 1988’s Paperhouse) was released in late 1992, it became a surprise darkhorse smash and damn near stole Stoker’s thunder on the pages of Fangoria. Helen Lyle (played with consummate early-‘90s sexiness by Virginia Madsen) is a Chicago grad student working with a colleague on a thesis about modern urban legends and how disenfranchised minorities use them as a detachment strategy to absolve themselves, supposedly, of their own responsibility in the creation of their dire situation. Before long, she uncovers the Candyman myth, which centers around the notorious Cabrini-Green complex (literally, a modern-day forbidden turret). Though Helen’s intentions are undoubtedly good, director Rose (working with a Clive Barker short story) seems to recognize the inherent futility behind her middle-class, ivory-towered, bleeding-heart quest (early on, he repeatedly shows her seeming to feign interest in interviewing, for instance, the school’s black janitors—smoking as though she can’t wait to get back to civilization). So, beginning with a dinner scene in which she is mocked by a pompous professor (who informs her in no uncertain terms she’s breaking no new ground), Candyman charts the systematic social degradation inflicted upon Helen by her mentors, militant Cabrini-Green gang members, the police, her husband, and ultimately the Candyman himself. Played by Tony Todd (and his velvety basso profundo voice), the Candyman is a svelte, sexual monument, far removed from the silent brutality of your average serial slasher. Rose’s dizzy, Jungle Fever-ish romanticism is juxtaposed against his cold, Cronenbergian dystopia to create Candyman‘s uniquely baroque use of modern urban blight, subtle political undercurrents, and hints of fallen woman melodrama. It creates a startlingly effective shocker that gains power upon further, sleepless-night reflection.
Though you were probably too scared shitless to notice it the first time around, Candyman was noticeably made on the cheap, and Columbia Tri-Star's transfer on this special edition certainly reveals the source limitations (such as the early matte-shot of billions of bees rising up against the Chicago skyline). But, at the same time, they didn't track down the most pristine print (there's dust and dirt in many places), and some of the strobe-lit scenes (especially toward the end) are mildly compromised by compression and blocking (not that you'll notice, by virtue of being scared shitless and all). Still, it's a solid anamorphic transfer. The three 2.0 stereo sound mixes (English, French, and Portuguese) are all serviceable, though the only effect that you'll probably notice is Philip Glass's score. (The Portuguese mix is a little bit tinnier and more quiet.)
First and foremost is a tag-team commentary track from no less than six members of the film's cast and crew. Because it's culled from many different, isolated sources, it's never dull, but it's also never really scene-specific and there's a both detached and rushed feel to it. (Would it've killed them to separate the cast and the crew to give some breathing room?) In addition there are two documentary featurettes totaling a half hour: "Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos" (which is really a reminisce on the making of the film) and "Clive Barker: Raising Hell" (which gives a brief insight into his writing methodology and background, though it only coyly breeches the subject of his homosexuality-information which might've given even greater weight to Candyman's portrait of social exclusion). Taken as a whole, the background/historical features cover a lot of ground (touching upon the obvious racial and sexual undertones of the film and its era). Also included is a five-minute montage of Rose's storyboards set to Glass music and three previews for films that are not the three Candyman films.
"Sweets to the sweet." And societal disgrace and hot, interracial, interspatial romancing to the smug.