Halloween Scene: Candyman (1992)

I have a pretty great story about how I saw Candyman 2: Farewell To The Flesh when I was in 8th grade, but I’m going to hold off on that one until I review that flick. It was the first real horror movie I saw all the way through so a few years later when I really got into the genre, I checked out the original and remember not liking. I don’t remember specifically why, but it does not hold a special place in my memory.

Having watching it again now some 13 or so years later, I understand why I didn’t like this film. I wasn’t as much a fan of the slow burn horror film back then. Now, I can appreciate such things, but back then I wanted to see the kills and the violence and then move on to the next one. Turning it on, I immediately thought it might have been a Clive Barker film I didn’t know much about only to discover it was based on a Barker story and he produced it, but a guy named Bernard Rose directed.

That being said, I’m not sure if this is such a great example of the slow burn horror movie. The more time this film gave me, the more I got to thinking about how it all worked and I wound up with a LOT of questions. Are the police really incapable of telling the difference between hook and knife wounds? Does Candyman make you think he’s killing people, but really you are? I assumed he was kind of a Freddy Krueger-type character, but if that’s the case, why does Virgina Madsen find him sleeping?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see how much of the story I can remember. Madsen plays a woman researching urban legends. She and her partner come across the one about Candyman, which says if you say his name five times in a mirror, he’ll appear, much like the Bloody Mary one. Because I’m the perfect age for this movie, I actually grew up knowing as much about the Candyman legend as I did the Bloody Mary one because some other kids had seen this movie (or their older siblings told them about it) when I was in grade school, so it instantly entered my local sphere of urban legend.

Anyway, the deeper she digs into the reality of Candyman, the more Madsen gets entangled in wild, supernatural events that she can’t really explain, like the deaths of people around her. It’s all part of some ellaborate plan of Candyman’s apparently, to make her look crazy so he can trick her into…running into a bonfire to save a baby. Yeah, I don’t know how much sense it makes and I just finished watching it, though I admittedly watched it over a few sittings and while doing other things, so I’m probably not the best judge.

So, while I’m not sure how effective the film is as a narrative that’s easily understandable, it is effective as a spooky horror flick. There were definitely a few moments where I got spooked by the scares in the flick. I also liked the basic way the film was shot with the cameras seemingly placed an appropriate distance away from the actors and them doing their thing. Sometimes with horror movies, the directors or editors get so wrapped up in quick, crazy cuts that it’s just disorienting. The simple style of the film also added a weird dimension to the proceedings that I noticed that’s almost entirely based on the weirdness of early 90s style. The movie takes itself seriously (not too seriously, but it’s definitely not a comedy) and then you see some really severe haircuts or the incredibly bright purple neon jackets worn by some of the hoods, some of whom were actual gang members. Today, these looks might seem like distinct choices meant to make the audience laugh or look at the character sidewise (like just about everything in Napoleon Dynamite), but it’s just an honest depiction of the reality at that time, funny as that may sound.

Okay, enough deep-ness. Do I recommend checking out Candyman? Nah, not really. I think Tony Todd makes for an awesome bad guy as Candyman, but overall, I don’t think the idea was handled all that well. If anyone reading this is a huge Candyman fan, drop me a comment and let me know why, am I missing something?

 

Death: One Mack Daddy You Don’t Want to F*ck With

I hope you get the reference in the title of this post. If not, it’s okay, I forgive you, but you should really do yourself a favor and watch my favorite horror trilogy (soon to be a whatever-four-movies-is) of the past 10-ish years: Final Destination. Candyman says it to the girl with split personalities from Heroes and the dreamy Devon Sawa.

For those of you who haven’t see these movies, there’s a basic formula. 1. A high school student sees a highly complex, devastating and graphic accident and freaks out when events in the vision start happening. The student saves him/herself and others. 2. Even though they didn’t die with the others, the survivors start dying in really crazy ways, usually involving seemingly natural events. 3. The main character comes upon the idea that death has a plan and death, as noted above, is not one to mess with. Even with that being said, apparently there’s a formula to things which the main character tries to decipher. 4. The main character and someone of the opposite sex try to convince the surviving survivors what’s going on to varying levels of belief and success. 5. Bad things happen (a lot). 6. It ends.

I’m sure a far more detailed map could be laid out for these movies, but I don’t want to ruin too many aspects of the films. And, even though all three are very similar in structure, it doesn’t really bother me because these movies aren’t really about the characters. Yes, I do think they’re fairly well-rounded and like/dis-likeable, but the real hook for these movies are the highly complex and usually gory death scenes that are amazing if you’re a gore fan. Sometimes they do get a little mean (the strangulation in 1 and the tanning bed in 3), but overall, I’d say they’re highly enjoyable in that way that you feel kind of bad about liking. I watched 2 and 3 on the train (1 was on Netflix instant, 2 I own and 3 I got as a disc from Netflix) and found myself being briefly exasperated, laughing, saying “Oh shit” and then looking around to see if my fellow commuters were looking at me funny. The knives in the first one, falling glass in the second and weights in the third are among my favorites, but they’re really all fantastic. This series also showed me my first bus-hit and cut/slide movie moments (1 and 2 respectively).

I also have a history with these movies, well at least the first two. 1 came out in 2000 when I was still in high school and I distinctly remember watching it in a darkened living room at Steph Knisely’s house and laughing hysterically when Tony Todd (Candyman), playing the older, vague guy explaining things to a small extent (he’s even a mortician named Bludworth) said the above quote. Even though I hadn’t seen the movie since that night, it made quite an impression, which is pretty impressive considering how many horror movies I’d seen up to that point and after. The second one (2003), I think a group of my high school friends and I went to see in the theater. I remember having the same kinds of reactions in the theater that I did on the train (something I didn’t remember until I was actually on the train). I definitely got some funny looks. I would have sworn I saw 3 (2006) at some point, but I think I only watched a few of the kills.

Aside from the gore, I like how much these movies make me think. And I don’t consider these things plot holes because we’re dealing with human interpretations of supernatural events without anyone or thing coming in and explaining things absolutely. So, Bludworth may have his theories and the kids extrapolate from there, but we don’t know if they’re right (especially taking into account the ends of each movie). So, does death have some kind of plan? It would seem so. But why does it go through such complex motions to get back on schedule? Why not just stop a heart, especially considering death seems to be able to manipulate living things (birds, rats, maybe even people). So, what are death’s rules?

Also, if death has a plan and is some kind of force of nature, what is the force acting against it? See, the visions have to come from somewhere right? And we’re not just talking about the main visions in the beginning of the movies, our heroes see other signs all over the place, as if they’re being given the information to help their friends or maybe just toyed with. In 1 Sawa a fan-chopped magazine spits out the name of his friend Tod, but by the time he gets to Tod’s house, dude’s dead. So, was Sawa just not fast enough or was he being messed with (like how Michael Myers toys with his prey)? I’m going to guess there’s an opposing force to death, maybe it’s as simple as being life, I don’t know, but I like to think about this kind of stuff.

So, you really get the best of both worlds: the best kills in recent memory and a larger story that really makes you think (at least I think so, but I’m not a mack daddy above being f*ucked with). I’m really excited for The Final Destination (I appreciate the finality of a title that already includes the world “final” like “seriously, THIS is the FINAL destination”) mostly for the ability to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on that with My Bloody Valentine 3D, but now my local theater has 3D capabilities thanks to some kids movie! I’ll have to sneak away to see it sometime, but it’ll totally be worth it.

Uncaged: Con Air (1997) and The Rock (1996)

2008-12-05
5:05:25 am

I recently switched from Blockbuster to Netflix as it was taking way too freaking long for me to get my DVDs (five days at times, even when I turned them in at the store, ugh). As a result I sat here switching my queue over and moving things around. I gotta say, I like the Netflix site a lot more. It’s way more user friendly and I actually like a lot of their movie suggestions. All of which I’m telling you to let you in on how I inadvertently ended up with two crazy, Nic Cage action movies from the mid 90s. I had never seen Con Air before and it’s been about a decade since I saw The Rock, so it was practically like watching it again for the first time.

CON AIR (1997)

What a great and crazy movie. Like with The Rock, I don’t really buy into one of the initial plot points. In this case its the idea that a military man just home from a tour of duty (or something, I’m not always clear on the jargon) kills a dude in a fight, a dude with a knife near Cage’s pregnant girlfriend no less. According to the brief court scene, soldiers are held to a higher standard because they’re killing machines. Sorry folks, I don’t buy it. Isn’t that plain old self defense? Anyway, aside from that (and Cage’s ridiculous accent throughout the film), I bought in. You see, Cage is done with his five year sentence and just wants to get home to his girl and their kid, so they put him on a plane (why was he so far away from home anyway?) with a bunch of other cons to fly them someplace else. Once in the air, the prisoners take over the plane in a pretty ingenious multi-part plan and we go on from there.

The first thing that struck me about Con Air is the cast. Aside from Cage, you’ve got John Cusak as a cop of some kind, John Malkovich as the mastermind behind the hijack, Dave Chapelle, Danny Trejo (the best interview I’ve ever had) and Ving Rhames as cons and Steve Buscemi as a sociopath serial killer. The characters aren’t all that well rounded, but the actors really sell their parts, offering up some of the creepiest cons in recent memory. Even Cusak, who I love in High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blanke and even 1401, is believable in the roll as an action-faring blockbuster cop, who would have thought?

There are all kind of groan worthy aspects to this flick, but I’ll take all of them in exchange for a crazy balls-out action flick that pays off in big names, big explosions and big plots. The final scene takes place in the middle of Las Vegas, first as a plane crash, then as a chase between a fire truck and two motorcycles. One aspect of the movie that was too much, though, was Colm Meaney’s “disbelieving tough guy cop.” In a movie filled with otherwise compelling (if not likeable) characters, Colm’s character just comes off as a boring, one note pain in the butt whose role should have either been rewritten or toned WAY down. It is cool to see his car come to its end, though.

One last thing, I just looked director Simon West up on IMDb and was horrifying to discover he’s the man responsible for subjecting me to the When A Stranger Calls remake. Well, to be fair, I’m responsible for subjecting Ben, Rickey and myself to a pretty awful movie, but who’s counting? It was by birthday after all!

THE ROCK (1996)

Like I said, I’d seen The Rock before, but had very little memory of it, which is great because this movie turned out to be a great surprise. I had a ton of fun watching The Rock, even though I was a little worried about it’s long running time (I have gotten pretty lazy, going so far as to sending Armageddon back without watching it because of its 2 and a half hour running time). Regardless, I am officially a huge Michael Bay fan, so of me what you will, even given what I think was a fairly weak plot point. My biggest problem with the story is that I don’t really buy that Ed Harris’ character would at any point believe his plan would work. If he’s not willing to actually kill a bunch of civilians, why would the government do anything by completely annihilate the island? Oh well.

The island in question is of course Alcatraz, the famous island prison which has fascinated me since I first saw it on some long forgotten show when I was a kid. There’s always been a great sense of history and mystery surrounding that place so I’m pretty much down with any movie or comic being set there (I’m also a big fan the Mythbusters where they test to see if prisoners could have really escaped from The Rock). I am also a big Sean Connery fan, though who isn’t? Seeing how great he is in this movie makes me wish he’d come back and do a role or two. In the flick he plays the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz. he gets teamed with chemical weapons expert Nic Cage to stop Harris and his hired soldiers (one of whom is Candyman) from firing off a series of missles with highly toxic bioweapons inside, which means they’ve got to break back into Alcatraz.

If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how to make an awesome movie. This one’s got everything from chase scenes to bad ass lines to bigger than life characters and cushion clenching suspense. It really makes me wonder what happened to Cage, though. If nothing else, these two movies reminded me of how much fun he used to be to watch on screen. Maybe it’s that I used to feel like we were both on the same page (these are goofy fun movies and he’s having a goofy fun time doing it), but somewhere along the line he turned into the guy who would star in Ghost Rider. Yeesh. I’ve also heard some pretty terrible things about Wicker Man and really want to watch it after seeing this Best Scenes from The Wicker Man YouTube video:

Crazy right? Well, I can always go back and watch Con Air and The Rock, both of which looked super awesome on the new TV (I really love this thing). But, hey, maybe John Carpetner’s upcoming Cage starrer Riot will bring him back to action movie prominence (I sure hope so).