Say his name five times… if you dare! Bernard Rose’s intense and often terrifying Clive Barker adaptation Candyman still packs a visceral punch after thirty years, two sequels, and a franchise relaunch. Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd deliver impressive performances for this ghostly urban thriller crafting an instant classic horror film in the process. Now Scream Factory is giving fans a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray upgrade with stunning results. The Dolby Vision transfer is beautiful with a new Atmos audio mix adding an extra layer of ominous dread. For fans of the original and best of the series - Highly Recommended
You say his name in the mirror five times… and then he appears behind you and kills you with a hook. It’s true… or at least every freshman on campus says about the Candyman. For Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and her partner Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons), these urban legends are essential for their graduate thesis paper. The Candyman (Tony Todd) is a local Chicago legend spurring Helen’s interests beyond simple academia. As she digs into the Candyman’s origins in Cabrini-Green, she’ll soon learn there’s more truth to the curse and legend.
Based on Clive Barker’s story The Forbidden found in the fifth volume of his Books of Blood anthology, Candyman is a pitch-perfect ghost story horror film. It establishes a cursed figure that looms over a segment of the population. For upper-crust suburban types, he’s a game to play at sleepovers. For the people of Cabrini-Green, he’s a very real threat that no one dare speaks of. It’s this balance that Bernard Rose’s screenplay and tactical direction exploit so perfectly in this film. As you watch you know it’s a horror movie that needs to live up to certain ghostly tropes, but for half the film you start to doubt that there actually is a Candyman and this is legitimately an urban legend coopted to terrorize a local community.
Throughout the film, there’s a constant sense of dread. From that first opening story to when Helen and Bernadette visit the Green, there is a steadily increasing sense of terror. It’s slow-burn horror at its finest. It lets the scary bits creep and crawl along before it hits you with the real blood and guts. To this day the scene where Helen investigates the apartment behind the mirror is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. It brilliantly plays with your expectations that come with the genre but instead of delivering a cheap payoff or silly jumpscare, it lets you simmer in it making you wonder what lurks in the shadows.
A large part of the success of this film goes to the great cast. Virginia Madsen was terrific in the film as a bullish and ambitious student. She’s so driven to make her mark that her obsessive nature comes back to haunt her. To that end, Tony Todd was perfectly cast as the cursed spirit Candyman. Even with so little screentime, his presence looms large and that deep voice puts a chill down your spine. Kasi Lemmons is the lovely voice of reason and caution with Bernadette. The scene when Bernadette and Helen are going to Cabrini-Green for the first time and she’s packing her purse full of pepper spray and tasers is funny but it says a lot about their character dynamic. It even speaks to the racial implications where Helen acts because she’s white she’s essentially invincible in that arena where Bernadette knows full well the reality of the situation. Then there’s Xander Berkley as Helen’s husband Trevor - and man can that guy play the lovable sleaze bag! Not part of the cast but an essential element, you have the magnificent Philip Glass score that just adds to the creepy hypnotic undertone of the film.
After a pair of less-than-amazing sequels, 2021 saw the franchise reboot Candyman returning the series back to its roots in Chicago. I loved the 2021 Candyman, not as good as the first but I thought it was a terrific relaunch for the series that tied back to the events of the original film accounting for the dramatic changes to the city’s appearance through gentrification but not its dark soul. With this watching, I decided to run these films back to back and I was pleased to see how well they work side-by-side. I’ll say the newer film is just as ambitious with tone and story, but between the two it’s not as focused. Bernard Rose went for the “less is more” with its themes and cultural observations where the 2021 sequel was throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck. When it works it’s great, but from start to finish Rose’s 1992 original is still the most visceral and overall horrifying. This is a franchise that should never leave Chicago. It’s like trying to take Leatherface out of Texas, it just doesn’t work. And that’s where I feel like Candyman Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman Day of the Dead struggle. There’s no reason for the action to be in New Orleans or Los Angeles. I’m sure someday down the line we’ll get another Candyman film - franchises never really die - but whether or not it could possibly live up to this terrific first film is a serious question mark.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UltraHD Blu-ray
Scream Factory upgrades their already impressive Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Candyman from 2018 with a brand new three-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray set. The 4K version of the film contains both the Theatrical and Unrated cuts of the film and is pressed on a BD-100 disc. The Theatrical and Unrated cuts get their own respective BD-50 discs upgraded with the new Atmos audio track. All three discs are housed in an Elite Viva case with the 4K disc stacked on top of the 1080p Unrated disc. The artwork is not reversible and there is an identical slipcover. Each disc loads to an animated main menu with standard navigation options. Bonus features are spread out between all three discs.
Note: All images are included from the included 1080p discs. When we can we’ll update with 4K-sourced images and video clip if we can.
UPDATE - 5/26/22
Now includes 4K-sourced images and video clip
Reportedly sourced from a new 4K master of the original negative supervised by Bernard Rose and Director of Photography Anthony Richmond, this 1.85:1 2160p Dolby Vision (with HDR10) transfer takes what was already an excellent transfer for the 2018 disc and makes it better. From A to B, this isn’t a massive overhaul of the image with new coloring, what we get are numerous subtle refinements throughout the presentation for a richer more detailed cinematic experience.
First, details are uniformly excellent throughout. Facial features, textures in the early 90s clothing, graffiti, and the dilapidated conditions of Cabrini-Green are on full display. Fine film grain is apparent and appropriately cinematic without appearing overly noisy. From the 2018 1080p transfer to this 4K release, it’s the subtle refinements to small details that stood out most to me - Helen’s houndstooth coat when she’s exploring the vacant apartment is shaper allowing that pattern to come out more cleanly. Likewise, the texture of Bernadette’s black coat with the white speckling gains those little extra refinements. Also worth noting, for the Unrated cut with those scant few seconds of additional gore, the difference in quality isn’t nearly as obvious on the 4K disc as the 1080p disc. It looks like they went back in there to give those inserts another pass to clean them up a bit so the transition isn't quite as jarring. There’s still a bit of wear and tear along the outer edges for those couple of seconds but they’re so fleeting you hardly notice.
The Dolby Vision pass is also on point. Primaries are stronger with reds and blues getting the most attention. Overall the color timing is a bit darker pulling back the brighter orange tone that was prevalent throughout the 2018 disc. Again not a dramatic difference but an appreciable one. Black levels also pick up a welcome boost. I felt like this transfer managed shadows and lighting much better allowing for Tony Todd is slide in and out of the shadows without falling into crush or being so bright that it loses the moodiness of the shot. To that point, whites are bold and crisp without blooming.
For this 4K disc and both Theatrical and Unrated cuts in 1080p comes a new Dolby Atmos mix that’s simply fantastic. But real quick a little tech stuff to get out of the way - The 4K disc only offers this new Atmos track with the previous DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The two 1080p discs have both tracks along with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Can’t feature why the 4K disc doesn’t include the 5.1 - but there you have it.
Since the Atmos mix is the newest addition to this set, that’s where I’m going to focus the attention. This film as a whole isn’t built on a lot of fast action or massive set pieces. It’s all mood, atmosphere, and general creepiness. It’s the silent stretches where you think you can hear something in the background but you’re not quite sure that this track really excels. The soundscape as a whole feels bigger and more immersive. Those echos along the stains and hallways of the Cabrini highrises or the parking structure move up and through the front/center channels into the heights.
When the film enters the last half and the horror really digs in the spacing of individual elements ensures there's a near-constant surround presence with expanded atmospherics. LFE and low notes also pick up some extra punch over the 5.1 track. This time you can genuinely feel Todd’s low rumbling voicework and how it moves about the channels is a real treat. Of course, for all of the gnarly squishy bits of gore, there’s plenty of attention paid there as well. This track may seem deceptively simple for that first half, but when you finally see Tony Todd’s Candyman it goes for the throat. Levels are pitch-perfect without the need for any extra adjustments, although with any viewing of this flick I recommend the louder the better for how damn creepy it is.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks are fine in their own regards and work well, but if you’re set up to rock and roll with Atmos, do it!
Between three discs, you have essentially all of the extensive bonus features of Scream Factory’s 2018 Collector’s Edition. The 4K disc only offers up two of the audio commentary tracks leaving the two 1080p discs to carry the rest of the commentaries, interviews, and featurettes. This was already an excellent assortment of bonus features and for this release, the Unrated Cut Blu-ray disc includes everything previously included with a new interview with Vanessa Williams which is pretty cool to hear her perspective and experience making the film. For a full breakdown of the older bonus features see our 2018 Candyman Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
4k Ultra HD Blu-ray
1080p Theatrical Disc
1080p Unrated Disc
Not only is Candyman one of the best horror films of the 90s, but it’s also one of the best horror films period. Bernard Rose crafted a perfect adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story steeped in a near-constant sense of dread and horror coupled with terrific performances from Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen. Scream Factory gives their already fantastic Collector’s Edition a more than worthy 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray upgrade complete with a terrific Dolby Vision transfer and a slick ominously immersive Atmos audio track. Toss in all of the extensive bonus features ported over from the previous release and an essential piece of any horror collection scares up a terrific 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release. Highly Recommended
Coming Soon - Candyman - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Arrow Video Review
Coming Soon - Candyman - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Turbine Media Book