Director: Bernard Rose
Starring: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkely
“Would you like friiiiiiies with that?”
Close your eyes and imagine Tony Todd saying the above words. It really could give you chills couldn’t it?
If you’ve been living under a rock or happen to be a newly hatched Nerdcromancer (I just made that up, but it’s kinda cool, right? Sorry, faithful reader, consider yourself labeled), Tony Todd is, in my opinion, a vastly underappreciated actor with giant screen presence and a low, bass-filled and truly spine chilling voice. There hasn’t been much he’s starred in that I haven’t liked, and his role in Candyman is pretty much what put him on the map.
He also has a special place in my heart because I almost hit him with my wife’s car when we were leaving a horror convention in Orlando. He was totally Jaywalking, so it wouldn’t have been my fault, but imagine how horrible I would have felt had something awful actually happened. Anyway, that’s a different story but for you fellow Tony Todd fans just be grateful that I have catlike reflexes and was too star struck at the time to do anything but hold up traffic while the gentle giant crossed International Drive.
In case you haven’t seen this one or don’t know the basic story, I’ll keep the “official” review short, vague and hopefully spoiler free. (NOTE: This is a review for Candyman, the movie, not THE Candyman, which is a song by Sammy Davis Jr., and is the story of a bum with holes in his shoes that dances. Or is that Mr. Bojangles? Yep, definitely Mr. Bojangles. Point is, badass as Sammy Davis Jr. was, he wasn’t as tall as Tony Todd, and neither song has anything to do with this review).
Candyman is the story of a grad student working on a thesis covering urban legends. I know what you’re thinking—come on! Urban Legends?!? It’s all been done before. You’re absolutely right, it HAS all been done before but I promise you this: rarely has it been done so well. Anyway, she stumbles across the legend of Candyman, which is one that you’ve probably heard before, in some fashion, although you may have heard of the legend referred to as something other than “Candyman.” Bottom line: turn off the lights, say his name five times in a mirror, and then he appears behind you rocking a hook for a hand. After that, things will likely get……..wet. The grad student is soon dragged rather brilliantly down a proverbial rabbit hole in which the line between fact and fiction, and dreams and reality become so blurred that even the audience is left holding their breath and questioning just how much of the Candyman tale is truly an urban legend. Lots of blood is shed (“but what is blood for, if not for shedding?”) and the film ends with a campy, but still satisfying zinger and thankfully the box office success of the first film spawned several sequels. I’ll have to catch up on those, but I remember liking them a lot.
Some quick thoughts and observations on the film:
- First off, for a “slasher” film, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. Philip Glass’s score is very classical in tone, and does a perfect job at making the viewer feel almost melancholy and sympathetic for the “monster.” You may disagree with my overall opinion of the film, but I challenge you to come up with something negative about the score. One of the best I’ve ever heard.
- The film is an adaptation of a Clive Barker story, who is a fantastic author, and true icon in the horror community. What’s brilliant is that the film seamlessly substitutes the setting from Barker’s England, to the Cabrini-Green Public housing development in Chicago’s North Side.
- Brilliant setting and music aside, what makes this film is Tony Todd. As I’ve already alluded to, his voice is a character in and of itself, but his lines in Candyman are poetically delivered in an almost opera-like way. “I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom! Without these things, I am nothing. So now, I must shed innocent blood.”
- Todd’s wardrobe is worthy of comment as well. The fur coat, tapered pants, and badass shoes make up the classiest getup of any of the iconic modern horror monsters, and it stops perfectly shy of “Pimp-dom.” Then there’s the hook.
And the bees.
- There’s plenty of gore in this one. In fact, rumor has it the filmmakers had a tough time avoiding an NC-17 rating due to some “spurting” issues. While this could turn off some of our higher browed fans, it pairs wonderfully with the classier undertones I’ve previously mentioned. A few of the effects are a little outdated by today’s standards, but if we truly let that influence us we wouldn’t call ourselves Nerdcromancers now would we? (See, that’s twice now!)
So, dearest readers, I think Candyman is a keeper and belongs in everyone’s library. Preferably a well-worn VHS version that you received from the friend of a friend that supposedly got it from their cousin’s room after he was brutally slain by an unknown assailant………