By 1992 Clive Barker was an established horror writer with his influential Books of Blood having been published and several films already having been made with varying success. The first of these had been Rawhead Rex in 1985 which Barker had been less than happy about the feature monster not being the anorexic thin phallus-like creature he had intended which was solely down to CGI not having arrived yet and the production therefore limited to Rex being a man in a monster suit. By 1987 Barker took things into his own hands making the influential ‘Hellraiser’, a big success which spawned a whole franchise of increasingly poor sequels. It gave him the clout to make 1990’s ‘Nightbreed’ which was beset with all manner of problems and it put him off directing again for five years. But Candyman was to be the next Barker book adaptation.
In the interim period his short story ‘The Forbidden’ was picked up by British director Bernard Rose who had gained a certain notoriety for directing Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s banned video for ‘Relax’. At the time he was directing, ‘Chicago Joe and the Showgirl’ starring Kiefer Sutherland and the then hot Emily Lloyd. At the same time Barker was working on ‘Nightbreed’ and they met in the studio canteen where they discussed their films neither really being aware of the other’s work. But it was Rose who picked up Books of Blood and found Barker’s Liverpool based short story, ‘The Forbidden’, a tale of a university academic researching an urban myth.
Rose immediately saw its potential and with Barker’s blessing wrote an adaptation of the story changing a number of factors including the lead characters’ names but most significantly its locale from Liverpool to Chicago and introducing a racial element that took the film to a whole other level giving the titular monster Candyman a back story that the book didn’t have.
Rose had intended for his first wife to star in the film but when she fell pregnant the role was recast with Virginia Madsen, brother of Michael. She had made a number of decent film including the under rated ‘The Hot Spot’ and the anticipated though disappointing sequel ‘Highlander II The Quickening’ and was carving a reputation as a decent and dependable actress. She was to play the academic researching the Candyman myth where, if you said his name 5 times into a mirror, you would summon the hook handed murderer who would wreak havoc. The casting of the central character was to be pivotal and it was to be Tony Todd an enigmatic six foot five actor who had been around for a similar length of time as Madsen appearing in a number of generally forgettable films including a remake of the Night of the Living Dead. With Rose at the helm, two decent actors and even securing Phillip Glass to do the score Candyman would turn out to be a big success.
Made on a budget of $6m Candyman was released in October 1992 and was critically acclaimed making $25m in the US alone working on several levels as both a horror thriller with a clever racial subtext that raised it above other films in the genre.
Released on a double blu ray limited edition Candyman has been given the usual high standard of treatment by Arrow films who release the film starting with a decent commentary by Bernard Rose and Tony Todd. There’s also a new commentary by horror writer Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. Todd also has his own featurette where he’s interviewed about the film which reveals some bizarre facts notably that the studio were after an ‘Eddie Murphy type’ in the lead role. Perhaps not surprisingly it’s the battle that Rose had with the studio about the interracial love aspect to the story which is most interesting and shows how much times have moved on since then. Virginia Madsen also gets her own featurette which has a whole host of anecdotes not previously known that includes her allergy to bees which was always going to be a problem when several scenes had them crawling all over her face. She also allowed Rose to allow her to be hypnotized something she makes clear she would never allow now and director Rose even pulled a further surprise on her during one take where a hooked arm crashes through a bathroom medicine cabinet startling her so much that she ran off set into the studio car park.
Clive Barker also gets his own featurette too and his appearance is a shock. Now 66 years old here he is gaunt and a shadow of his former cigar smoking self as seen when he was promoting Hellraiser back in the late 80’s. It’s Barker who admits to the film of Rawhead Rex as prompting him to want to direct but ultimately realizing that he had far more control as an author than he ever would as a film director which goes some way to explaining why he’s not directed since 1998. Barker talks quite openly about his interest in finding beauty in the macabre but it only reinforces a stereotypical image of a horror writer when he details how he attends autopsies and has held human brains in his hands. What’s more revelatory is the insight to his childhood years where he was wholly and openly rejected by his father on an almost daily basis.
The double disc also has a featurette with production designer Jane Stuart, an interview with Douglas E Winter and a feature on the effects artists and their encounter with a devoutly Christian blacksmith who made the hook for Candyman. Most disappointing of the lot is a feature on the urban legend with two black writers who over analyse the film in its portrayal of black culture influences which all gets a little too intense and over sincere especially when it links Sidney Poitier’s later films with those of Wesley Snipes’ which is taking it beyond credibility.
Candyman was a critical and commercial hit and spawned the inevitable sequel in 1995 and 1999 both of which had Todd return in the title role. Neither Rose nor Madsen returned for the sequels with the director moving away from horror with his adaptation of ‘Anna Karenina’ and Madsen never really cementing her reputation until 2004 when she was nominated for her performance as Best Supporting Actress in, ‘Sideways’.
For all the films that have had Clive Barker’s name slapped on them Candyman is certainly one of the better ones and this double disc is a decent and worthy appraisal of the adaptation that was made of his short story
Here’s the Candyman trailer……
Candyman is released on Oct 29th 2018