Friday, April 8, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 07 - Your favorite supernatural horror film

Well, this is a broad topic, huh? Technically, anything besides a serial killer flick could really be considered “supernatural.” I’m gonna guess the intent was ghosts and hauntings though, so I’m gonna go with Candyman. I hear you all asking, “Candyman? Supernatural horror? What?” Candyman often gets lumped in with the slasher genre, and I can see why. Candyman himself is an iconic killer with a trademark weapon. The movie, however, is really a ghost flick. He’s an urban legend, brought to life as an apparition by the belief in his story. Sounds pretty supernatural to me.

Candyman is based on a Clive Barker short story. It’s a riff on the old Bloody Mary shtick. For those of you who were never in elementary school, allow me to elaborate. Her backstory varies, but the legend says that if you say her name 5 times (or 3, or 10, depending on where you grew up) into a mirror in the dark, she will appear. Candyman is a similar legend, based on a tale of the son of a slave murdered for his romance with a white woman. He returned as a hook handed killer summoned by saying his name 5 times. His legend is a part of the culture of Cabrini Green, a housing project in Chicago. When real life murders start occurring, you guessed it, they are attributed to Candyman. Helen is writing a thesis about the Candyman myth, and, while doing some on site research, is assaulted by a gang member who has taken on the persona. After she helps put him away, the myth has supposedly been dispelled. Then the real Candyman shows up, and he’s pissed. It seems that her screwing with people’s belief in his legend threatens him. This is basically the same problem Freddy had in Freddy vs. Jason. If no one’s scared, the boogeyman becomes obsolete and fades away. The rest of the movie deals with everyone Helen knows dying by the hook, Helen being blamed for the murders, and Candyman attempting to get Helen to join him in legend land.

That godawful Urban Legend flick mined similar territory 6 years later, but the “urban legend come to life” motif is married to a much more interesting concept here. Candyman is given life through the belief and fear in his story. Is he real because people believe in his story, or do people believe in his story because he’s real? He states at one point “Your disbelief destroyed the faith of my congregation. Without them I am nothing.” Brings up some theological questions huh? No wonder, it’s based on a Clive Barker story. Barker excels at taking big metaphysical and cultural questions and issues and burying them in a horror story. Look at all of the symbolism in the flick I talked about yesterday, Nightbreed. They say a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down. Well Clive knows that a bucket of blood makes philosophy more palatable to the horror freak. Without this whole deeper concept, this could have easily been just another slasher flick.

So, aside from the cool concept, what do we have here? Great monster? Check. Tony Todd is, as always, excellent. He’s right up there with Lance Henriksen on the short list of actors that can get me to sit through bad movies just because of their presence. Not Candyman, it’s awesome, but Tony has been in some true crap in his career. He’ll be popping up again before this 30 Day thing is over. His Candyman isn’t just maniacal, but suave and regal. His voice is absolutely perfect for the characters dialog. There’s a reason this became his best known role. Talented and OH MY GOD beautiful leading lady? Check. Virginia Madsen pulls off a subtle but spot on performance. Killer setting? Check. The filthy, graffiti covered corridors of Cabrini Green and Candyman’s layer are magnificent. Good direction? Check. Bernard Rose, just like in Paperhouse (another one he directed), prefers long shots to rapid fire cuts and moves the camera with a fluidity many directors can’t pull off. Good writing? Check. For a 99 minute movie based on a 58 page story, there sure isn’t much filler. The tension just keeps building and building. Spine tingling score? Check. Check this out...

…creepy as hell, right? Well done Philip Glass

The true testament to the effectiveness of this movie is that I know people in their mid 30’s that won’t say Candyman five times in a mirror TO THIS DAY! Me, I ain’t afraid of no ghost. Just in case though, let me go ahead and say two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. Ok, here we go. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Ca…oh wait, I almost forgot. I told Travis I’d put a haiku in this one. Here ya go...

His voice may be smooth

“Sweets for the sweet. Be my victim.”

But the hook says more.


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