Candy man (1992)

Starring: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, and Vanessa Williams.

Directed By: Bernard Rose

Where I Watched It: VOD

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

Narrated By: John. I’d love to attempt his last name, but i wouldn’t get close. I did use theadna.org to see if this has been uploaded, and it said no results. So, all I’ve got is a British dude named John.

The Plot: As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of this horror classic, we look back at a time when a college student (Academy Award Nominee Virginia Madsen) investigates an urban legend for her thesis, leading her to track down a man known only as the Candyman (Todd), who may or may not be covered in bees. You’ll find out if you say his name five times, or really… whenever he feels like it.

What Works: Well, Candyman is considered a classic, and it just got the requel treatment last year (I plan on reviewing that very soon a s well), and I was quite surprised to see someone had bothered to go back and make sure that this title was audio described. Because, thank God, am I right? This is definitely one of the first titles I would have started with as well.

Getting into what I would call “This film is 30 years old, and rules about spoilers do not exist” territory, there are some individual elements that work here. First of all, the cast is better than this film. Virginia Madsen, is quite obviously destined for greater things despite the script given to her. I didn’t even really recognize Vanessa William’s voice in this film. So, good on her. And Tony Toddd just has one of those voices. It’s kind of a beautiful voice when you really get into it, and it’s somewhat hilarious that we’ve turned him into a horror icon. He should have done a Barry White biopic, or perhaps a James Earl jones.

I liked the concept of how the mural was described, even if I’m not really sure how a civil war folk tale survived all the way into the early 90’s so profoundly to warrant a mural, but it sounds terrifying.

There are a few moments of tension where I admittedly did not know where the scene was going, and director Bernard Rose did actually zig when I was expecting a zag.

Notably, the films finale, which sees two characters in a post-Candyman world. The guy is in the bathroom having an emotional moment, and his girlfriend is in the kitchen obviously annoyed at something. She’s angry. She’s slamming meat onto the counter, and she’s got a huge knife. Yet none of that is relevant. The other guy ends up getting his “Candy” without anything that his girlfriend is doing actually mattering, yet a lot of focus was given, and kept cutting back to her character that was obviously unhinged. I assumed the worst, and I got… honestly something ridiculous, but at least something unpredictable.

He also utilizes a Candyman imposter rather well, as well as a child who may or may not have the best of intentions. It’s really hard to figure that kid out, and the audio description makes him out to be almost intentionally a villain at times, and then at others, he’s obviously not. So, there’s some fun to be had here. Not enough for this film to have launched an entire damn franchise spanning 30 years, but some interesting stuff.

But then again, back in these days, we made sequels to everything. Literally, almost every fucking horror movie you could think of from this time period, especially anything in the slasher franchise, got multiple sequels. Pumpkinhead, Hellraiser, Childs Play, Tremors, and not to mention all the Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers films that have always maintained a theatrical release pattern. Sadly, some Candyman sequels went straight to video.

What Doesn’t Work: I’m surprised even the sequel, Farewell To The Flesh, was theatrical. I know there are horror movie fans out there, but this film is pretty awful. Unlike the rules laid out by other horror franchises, Candyman has no rules, yet rules seem to be his thing. The entire thing and premise about Candyman seems to be that saying his name five times will summon him, like Bloody Mary, and he guts you. Except, the first kill sequence we get is one person doing it 4 times, and then another doing it once, and the person who did it once dies.

Later, he just starts to fucking appear just because Madsen is researching him. She hasn’t summoned him, and yet he requires her as a sacrifice for a baby… who also most definitely did not say Candyman five times, nor did his mother. He beheads a dog, that also didn’t say his name five times. And he kills other people simply because of their proximity to Madsen, one being a friend who is wrong place wrong time, and definitely did not break the Candyman rules. The other, is someone else in the room when Madsen finally does summon Candyman, but instead of killing her right away (as she’s the only person who says his name five times in a row uninterrupted without any help from any other people), he kills the other person who did not say his name.

WHAT ARE HIS RULES?

This movie makes no fucking sense, and the fact that enough people droooled all over it, and made it a classic horror film is insulting to all of the horror films actually worth your time. If he can just do whatever the hell he wants, why bother torturing Madsen into saying your name. You can clearly come and go as you please, and speak to people through telepathy regardless. If your goal was to make people terrified of your urban legend again, wouldn’t it be more prudent to just kill a bunch of people? Why bother making it look like Madsen is killing people?

And I haven’t even gotten to the truly awful shit yet. His origin story. So, our final girl runs into someone from the art world who has heard of this Candyman thing, and he tells her his backstory, to which he seems to know all of the intimate details, despite this apparently taking place during reconstruction.

Candyman is a black artist, whose father invented something during the civil war that made them wealthy, so after the civil war he sent his child to the best schools, where he became an acclaimed artist. People were paying him to paint their portraits. Then one day, a guy hires him to paint his daughter’s virginity (I know, right? Like, can we just stop here for a second. you know what that means, right? Her father wants a painting of her vagina. And somehow Candyman is the villain in this story.) and Candyman falls in love with the girl (as any man obviously would when hired by her father to paint her virginity), and they have sex, daddy finds out, he hires a mob to punish Candyman who chase him into town where they cut off a hand, and one of them goes to a place where they are storing bees, steals the Honeycomb, and they rub the Honeycomb over Candyman’s now naked body, where he then becomes consumed by bees and stung to death, and after that, they set him on fire and spread his ashes in this little area where he now haunts.

Cocaine was really fun in the early 90’s, and I’m sure Clive Barker can attest to that. No mention of why the guy stealing the honeycomb wasn’t attacked by bees, or… why bees. There just are bees. Also, when he’s recounting this story he knows so well, he always refers to him as Candyman. There’s no way that’s his real name. So you know all of that, you know all about his art, but you can’t reveal his real name? Isn’t there some record of what his father invented? How do we not know his name, but have all of this information?

So, in general, shame on all of you for making this movie a horror classic.

The Blind Perspective: Our lovely British chap, john, narrates this in a very interesting way. i love how he refers to the groupings of the poor black folk in this community as “homeboys”. I’m certain this narration wasn’t done in 1992, yet the use of that word is so intentional, it’s like they were trying to recreate what someone might have called a collection of black men in 1992.

Unfortunately, even though there’s an attention to detail within this film, it’s in all the wrong places. We never get a great description of Candyman, not one that would make him terrifying anyway. All of the kill sequences never really mention any of the stabbing or slashing. Usually you just hear some sound effects, the narration drops out, and then later someone will find a “bloodied corpse”. So either this is one of the least gory films in the genre, or the narrator team forgot that the primary reason people watch films in this genre is to A) Be Scared, B) The Kills. People don’t show up to a film like Candyman for the Oscar caliber acting, or some earth shattering plot, as obviously this film doesn’t have one. They are here to watch people die, get murdered in the most of horrific imaginable ways, or they are here to get scared. And neither of those things are helped by the audio description, though I concede the fact that it’s 100% possible this film is neither scary or gory.

My favorite part of the audio description was the part when Helen (Madsen) is seriously considering an exit from a window, and the audio description makes sure we know that a fall from that height would be fatal. It’s an interesting way of putting it, instead of guessing the floors, or simply saying how high she notices she is. no, the description just straight up lets us know that going out that window will result in death, and then you immediately know at least how high she would need to be in order for that to be a certainty.

Final Thoughts: The audio description will let horror fans down, but overall isn’t terrible. If this was a film in another genre, it would have worked. But by not describing the kills, and kill sequences, and robbing the blind audience of the scares and the gore, you’ve reduced this film to be dependent on the plot alone, and as I pointed out, that’s an awful idea.

i will concede, however, that there might be a reason this film has survived this long and spawned so many sequels. It’s possible that something was lost in translation, or that in 1992, this was the bees knees. So, I find grading this film hard. i know Candyman was iconic. And though I never got to see any of his films before losing my sight, I did see images of this guy covered in bees, and he looked kinda creepy. Maybe, in 1992, this was good enough to be scary, and our bar has just been raised. It’s interesting to look back at a film like this, that’s clearly a benchmark, and want to do nothing more than shit all over it. i could poke holes in the film for days, but I’ve got 30 yeras on this.

So, where does my fickle grading system land?

FINAL GRADE: C-

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