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Saturday, April 3, 2010

You are not content with the stories, so I was obliged to come.

Maybe it was David Cronenberg’s recent visit to Trinity College that incited my craving to re-watch The Fly, or the fantastically thrilling (I say this without a hint of facetiousness) essay I’ve just finished writing on The Exorcist and Catholicism (how apt, on this, the Good-est of Fridays), but I’ve developed a fledgling compulsion for horror, in film and literature form.

Apparently, it’s not simply sensationalism and self-indulgent gore for friendless fifteen year old boys who want to gawp at a bit of tit and intestine. Horror can actually be cerebral.
It can be moralistic, provide social commentary, satirise. It can be political. It can be psychoanalytical. It can even be quite funny sometimes.

O, Horror, how I misjudged thee. I can only try to make amends. It’s quite terrifying, being on the cusp of delving into an extensive cinematic canon that’s often the object of cultic devotion, but I’m excited too. It evokes the same feeling I have when I remind myself that I haven’t seen Braveheart yet, and I still have it to look forward to, that inimitable experience of discovering and falling in love with something. It can only happen once. On reflection, I can’t be entirely certain that I’m going to fall in love with Braveheart, but Jamie Fox has told me that it is one of the most romantic films of all times and that I will adore it. I trust him. Plus, if it is terrible then he might forgive me for making him sit through Drew Barrymore’s directorial dĂ©but Whip It. Which has absolutely nothing to do with Devo. And is god awful.

So join me on a journey through the wretched realms of horror and its sub-genres; from b-movies, exploitation film and urban gothic, to slasher and splatter film, or, if you prefer, “gorno”*

Clive Barker’s Candyman (1992)

A searing slasher film. And one the most fantastic soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time; an ominous 8-bit rock opera that isn't chilling the slightest but super catchy!

Helen, a graduate student gathers research for her thesis on local urban legend the Candyman. It has been said if you look into a mirror and say “Candyman” five times, the hook-handed son of a slave who dresses like a pimp and has the most ludicrously deep voice of all times will appear and bring about your gruesome end.
Naturally, Helen thinks it'll be brilliant fun to “Candyman” into the mirror five times, and the requisite knife crime commences.

But what makes the film so fascinating is actually the psychological torture that Helen, played by an actress with freakishly perfect nipples (thank YOU gratuitous bath scene) is subjected to. Her previous scepticism towards the Candyman prompts him to bring about her destruction not by skewering her with his hook, on account of that'd be far too obvious and the film would only last about half an hour, but by framing her for a string of depraved crimes. of COURSE Helen, the chain-smoker with a thing for sponges didn't decapitate a Rottweiler, kidnap a baby or stab her best friend Bernie to death. it was sheer COINCIDENCE that she happened to wake up in a pool of blood clutching a kitchen knife every time.
(It actually was.)

Surprisingly, after blaming it all on a big black man with a hook for a hand who keeps on disappearing, Helen is committed. She eventually manages to escape by disguising herself as a nurse (the number of poor, unassuming people in the service industry who've been knocked unconscious and stripped of their clothes in films is shocking) and the rest of film build towards the climactic scene, the epic showdown between the Candyman and Helen during which the former tries to put his hook up the latter's skirt. The film also has one of the greatest cliffhanger endings, which had the potential to spawn a truly appalling sequel. Credit to the makers for not cashing in, though I'd imagine "Candywoman" has "so-toecurlingly-bad-it's-hilariously-good" written all over it.

Candyman is brilliant because it’s actually very clever, examining real-life and fictional horrors and the relationship between the two. How the urban legend, a mythologised figure can often be blamed for real and many evils in a society, like the refusal of a community to take responsibility, otherwise known as Burying-your-head-in-the-sand syndrome.

I think it's brilliant that Clive Barker based the Candyman on an actual urban myth he'd heard about in Liverpool- the legend of Purple Aki, a figure feared by generations of young children. One of his victims was said to have been so terrified he willingly threw himself in front of a moving train. Then, in 2001, the stuff of legends and overactive imaginations turned out to be true.

Purple Aki was real**

In summation- it’s relentlessly gripping with a fantastic back story and great acting, especially from the small black child with a lisp. Besides, when a film has a line in it like "I hear you're looking for Candyman, bitch" you know you're onto a winner

When viewing, keep an eye out for:
the woman at the beginning who literally has no breasts whatsoever, the “sweets to the sweet graffiti” (it’s a line from Hamlet!) and the scene when the bees swarm out of the Candyman’s mouth (they were real bees in his real mouth!)

Also bear in mind:
The fact that Sandy Bullock was considered for the part of Helen. Almost as bizarre as the word bizarre!

You can stream Candyman by clicking here.

* “gorno” is a hybrid word, an amalgamation of ‘gore’ and ‘porno’. Tasty.

** He was, in fact, a black body-builder who had a muscle fetish and used to force young boys to do press-ups while he felt up their arms. Pleasant.

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