Candyman (1992): Bee Afraid

Candyman (film)
Candyman (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Directed by (and adapted for the screen by) Bernard Rose, based on a short story by Clive Barker from his Books of Blood, Candyman is a scary edge-of-your-seat suspense-filled horror movie. The entire film reeks of foreboding and the tension is almost unbearable. On its release in 1992 it became a runaway smash with audiences and critics.

Although Barker’s short story takes place in England, moving the location to Chicago’s North Side Housing development of Cabrini Green does not harm the movie at all.

Candyman boasts a great cast: Tony Todd as Candyman, Virginia Madsen as grad student Helen Lyle, Xander Berkeley as her slimy husband Trevor Lyle, Kasi Lemmons as Helen’s best friend Bernie Walsh, and Vanessa Williams as the battle-scarred resident of Cabrini Green Anne-Marie McCoy and way down on the cast list is Ted Raimi doing what he does best, dying by Candyman’s hook.

The plot centers around Helen Lyle who is, with the help of Bernie, doing her Master’s thesis on urban legends. It is while she’s interviewing students that she becomes aware of the Candyman.

The original Candyman was the illegitimate son of a white slave owner and one of his slaves. He was a very talented artist and lived as a free man. He was much in demand for his artistic skills and after he meets a white girl whose portrait he’s been commissioned to paint. They fall in love.

Unfortunately, Candyman has forgotten the first rule of living as a black free man in early America. When the townspeople find out that he and the white girl are together they react badly. They chase down him down and cut off his painting hand and replace it with a hook. They then cover him with honey and he is stung to death. The crowd chant Candyman as he dies.

The urban legend says that you can summon the Candyman by saying his name five times while looking in a mirror. Although why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. When Candyman appears, he kills the summoner with his hook. I can only assume that it would be a guaranteed way to commit suicide.

Helen and Bernie both jokingly tryout the ritual in Helen’s bathroom mirror with no apparent effect.

The location of the legend appears to be the Cabrini Green housing project. Helen goes to scout out the place and hears of at least two deaths that have been attributed to Candyman. She literally places herself in danger as she tries to hunt down the facts of the two murders in the Green.

As Helen continues to pursue the story, her husband stops supporting her. Although the main reason is that he is having an affair with one of this female students. Not too surprising as he met Helen this way. Helen’s life becomes consumed by the Candyman and he begins to control her.

At the film’s end, Helen has suffered for her thesis, which is probably never going to be published. She pays the ultimate price to escape the Candyman that she so foolishly summoned, twice.

As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, Candyman is full of foreboding. It feels ominous from frame one. Director Bernard Rose never lets up in this slow build of danger and suspense. When the film finally finishes you feel drained and not a little exhausted.

The character of Helen (as played by Madsen) is a complex one. She appears to be a mix of  unconfident newlywed and mature student who pursues her  thesis with an almost childish recklessness. She doesn’t seem to be able to foresee the consequences of her actions and she foolishly puts not only herself but those around her in danger.

When she does belatedly realise the harm she has caused, she reacts. Her motivation is to save a baby and herself from the Candyman. She manages to accomplish both but it is almost too late for the baby and she dies in her escape from the Candyman.

Tony Todd infuses Candyman with a sad menace. That he is a vengeful spirit is beyond question, but he still manages to convey the emotional and physical pain that he is filled with.

Candyman is Todd’s film though. He overwhelms the screen every time he appears. When he is not on-screen, we wait impatiently for his to show up.

The rest of the cast performs brilliantly, they had to otherwise they would have been completely blown out of the water by Todd.

In my opinion, this was one of the best adaptations of Clive Barker’s books. It was the first in a “planned” trilogy that has since grown into a foursome.

Definitely a two bag popcorn film. One to lose from jumping in fright and one to stuff excitedly into your mouth. Great film.

Cover of "Books of Blood"
Cover of Books of Blood

Wishmaster (1997): Tongue-in-Cheek Horror

Wishmaster (film)
Wishmaster (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Made in 1997 and directed by Robert Kurtzman (this was his second feature film) Wishmaster is a fun frolic of a horror film. With a cast list that reads like a “who’s who of horror” it’s easy to see why it did so well at the box office.

Promoted as a “Wes Craven Presents” film, it definitely fits into the Wes ‘we are not worthy’ Craven style of horror film.

Now about that cast list.

Robert Englund as Raymond Beaumont
Kane Hodder as Merritt’s Guard
Reggie Bannister as a pharmacist
Tony Todd as Johnny Valentine
Ted Raimi as Ed Finney
Angus Scrimm as Narrator
Joseph Pilato as Mickey Torelli
Andrew Divoff as The Djinn/Nathaniel Demerest
Tammy Lauren as Alexandra Amberson
Chris Lemmon as Nick Merritt

With the obvious exceptions of Tammy Lauren and Chris Lemmon (Jack Lemmon’s son and he sounds just like dad) all the names on the above list are horror film ‘alumni’ and well recognised by film fans.

Peter Atkins who wrote the film, named some of his characters after real-life writers in the horror and fantasy genres.

The plot is about an evil Djinn, aka genie, who inhabits a jewel. This jewel is appropriated by Chris Lemmon’s Auction house and while being appraised by the lab enable the Djinn to escape and wreck havoc on the world. The sting in the tale of this “genie” movie is that the Djin are the original form of the ‘helpful’ genie.

Narrator Angus Scrimm tells us at the beginning of the film that the Djinn equal fear. What he does not tell us is that the Djinn have a wicked sense of humour. Played with evil relish by Andrew Divoff, the Djinn obviously enjoys granting wishes, even when the “wisher” doesn’t intend to wish for anything.

English: Photo of Andrew Divoff taken at Adven...

Some of the FX are a little dated but the intent is still there and the film works in spite of it. It is a brilliantly funny film and well worth the time spent watching it. Some of the things the Djinn does reeks of irony. There is a moment in the film where a door man tells the Djinn that if he wants in the building, he’ll have to go through him. The Djinn with an evil laugh and a grin turns the man into part of a glass door so he can do just that. Wicked fun.

Wishmaster was made for an estimated budget of five million dollars and grossed three times that in box office sales. It was popular enough that it spawned a total of three sequels, finally ending after Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled

Despite the popularity of the original, it is easier to find copies of the sequels that it is to  find Wishmaster itself.

I would definitely recommend this to any horror film fan. Hell, it’s worth a look to just watch Chris Lemmon who is definitely a slice off the old peel.

Chris Lemmon at the 1990 Academy Awards. NOTE:...

Final Destination 5…Don’t bother

 

Final Destination 5
Final Destination 5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been a huge fan of the Final Destination films since the first one. The mix of gory deaths and cheeky humour was able to make me laugh and groan at the same time. I will readily admit that I own all the films on DVD. But I have got to say the quality of the films has depreciated with each new sequel.Yes I know that is going to happen whenever any film gets turned into a franchise. Although I believe firmly that the Scream films are the exception to this rule and of course The Godfather  films also are the exception. And anything after Terminator 2 is just ______ (fill in with the expletive of your choice).

Now we have Final Destination 5 in  3D yet. When I first watched it, I felt the digital FX really let it down. Then I realised I was watching the blu-ray version and not the 3D one. All right, I thought, we’ll give that problem a miss as I’m guessing it looked much better when wearing the glasses. But that was not all that was wrong with the film.

Before I have a moan about the film, I would like to say that the highlight was seeing the cameo by that always impressive actor Tony Todd. I’ve loved this man’s performance’s ever since I watched him terrorise Virginia Madsen in Candyman.  On a side note, watching that film made me solemnly vow to never look into a mirror and say Candyman three times. *shudder* Unfortunately having Tony Todd in the film (and it is a shame we couldn’t have seen more of him) did not help save it from being a huge disappointment.

English: American actor Tony Todd at the 2003 ...
English: American actor Tony Todd at the 2003 Motor City Comic Con. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Mbig complaint about the film was the loss of the tongue-in-cheek way that fate (or death) checked each character out. All the prior films had a beautiful sort of irony in the way each person died. Unfortunately it appears that the producers just wanted to increase the gore factor. I can imagine them sitting around a big board room table. “Okay guys, we’re going to make one more Final Destination.” Much groaning from the table members. “I know. I know. We said that the previous Final Destination was going to be the final one. But hey, with the advances made in 3D on Avatar, we can really make this one rock!”

So in my mind, I think they were a bit too much in love with the idea of 3D. Nice idea guys but sloppy execution (get it?).  On a final note, this was the only Final Destination I bought in blu-ray and it will be the first blu-ray that I take to trade in for a better film. Well, it is the first one, if you don’t count the blu-ray copy of Twilight that I unsuccessfully kept trying to trade in. No one wanted it because it had a “scratch” on it. I think they were lying like a cheap watch. They just did not want a copy of a DVD they couldn’t get rid of.

Damn, I hope I don’t have the same problem with Final Destination 5!