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Candyman: Special Edition

Virginia Madsen stars in this surprisingly effective 1992 horror yarn as Helen Lyle, an ambitious graduate student whose research of urban legends leads to an obsession with a particular local myth to which several recent deaths have been attributed. With no support from her disinterested professor husband (Xander Berkeley), Helen drags her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) into the Chicago projects of Cabrini Green to investigate rumors of "Candyman," the supposed ghost of a mutilated black dandy suspected of haunting the area since the era of Civil War reconstruction. Naturally, Helen learns that Candyman is not, in fact, an urban legend, but rather a very real and murderous presence (played by Tony Todd), and one who quickly singles her out for special attention. Although Candyman is based on a story by popular horror writer Clive Barker, the movie's writer-director Bernard Rose enthusiastically expands the original material, crafting a complex, if occasionally scattered, backstory, and he wonderfully capitalizes on the atypical urban environment for an unusually earnest series of scares. Unlike his cackling movie predecessor Freddy Krueger, Candyman wastes no breath on tacky wisecracks; this fiend deals in the hypnotic poetry of the gothic south, and neither does Rose spend tension in exchange for winking self-mockery. Candyman works precisely because it takes itself — as does its title killer — so seriously, operating with a self-belief exceedingly rare during these days of ironic slasher fare. Candyman is certainly far from flawless, and it's frequently distracted by its own false clues or by fragments of meaningless formula left behind from less interesting films (Candyman strikes when someone says his name five times into a mirror, for no other reason, it appears, than just because…). But Rose plows through the sometimes silly and often incredulously narrative with a fierce sense of romantic purpose, and his uncompromising style is both bracing and contagious, leaving little time for unraveling the movie's fuzzy math between its persistently creepy or unsettling set pieces. All of the actors take to their potentially silly parts with convincing commitment, and Philip Glass's terrific score is one of the most memorable of the genre and one his best. Followed by two sequels, but also a worthy narrative precursor to the popular Japanese horror series Ringu (The Ring). Columbia TriStar's Special Edition of Candyman features a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), although the source print shows a little wear during the opening credits, while audio comes in Dolby 2.0 Surround. This disc includes a commentary track featuring Rose, Barker, producer Alan Poul, Madsen, Todd and Lemmons, during which they, keeping with the movie's effective spirit of overcommitment, oversell the social relevance of the movie's racial subtext. Also on board are equally self-aggrandizing featurettes "Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos" and "Clive Barker: Raising Hell," storyboards, and a trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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