Candyman


Viewed – 30 October 2018. Blu-ray

Clive Barker had a bit of a short run of cinematic adaptations of his work, and few could argue that Hellraiser is a classic. This interpretation of his short story ‘The Forbidden’ may take a bit of artistic license with its source material but turned out to become a bit of a cult classic, and like Hellraiser spawned several inferior sequels. I recall liking it quite a bit, but how does it stand up 23 years later?

Virginia Madsen plays grad student Helen Lyle who whilst writing a thesis on urban myths, stumbles upon the story of Candyman after a local woman is found murdered in a run-down ghetto housing estate. Is he just the boogeyman or is there really someone committing grizzly murders?

Bernard Rose’s movie certainly has that 90s aesthetic and is hampered by rather weak characterisation and cheesy dialogue throughout.. The story is basic and attempts to add some depth with guff involving identical apartment buildings and a less than monogamous husband. However when the second half arrives and a key character is set up for murder, the movie elevates itself to another level entirely. I still really like the direction this movie takes and it turns a rather mediocre tale into something far more effective. For a movie with Clive Barker’s name associated, it’s occasionally gory and at times shocking but nothing all that disturbing. Rose’s direction is atmospheric though, and the cinematography is a lot better that this sort of movie usually gets. That theme is also still very haunting even all these years later. Candyman (Tony Todd) didn’t come off as iconic or as interesting as I recalled but he’s still an interesting creation. However why he’s called Candyman is anyone’s guess.

This new Arrow Video release comes in deluxe packaging that includes a storyboard booklet along with a poster. The movie itself is presented in two cuts, the r-rated u.s. version and the slightly gorier uk theatrical edition. However it’s only the u.s. version that gets the 4K restoration treatment, yet this doesn’t deliver much of a wow-factor image-wise with a very soft picture that whilst occasionally boasting vibrant colours is otherwise disappointing. The soundtrack fairs better and is punchy despite there being little to separate the 2.0 and 5.1 sound options, with no real use of surrounds other than to add a bit of depth. However we do get two new audio commentaries, firstly from the director as well as actor Tony Todd, and secondly from authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (sadly not Barker). We also get new interviews with lead cast members, behind the scenes crew members and production people. There’s also a retrospective on Clive Barker original story too. Again with Arrow exhaustive treatment that’s a treat for fans and collectors like myself. The movie itself is good entertainment but mostly not as memorable as I remembered.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

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Welcome back Pinhead!


scarlet-gospels

Yesterday after much anticipation, I finally got my hands on the latest novel from acclaimed horror / fantasy writer Clive Barker.  Now those not in the know, this writer was responsible for the ‘Hellraiser’ movies (especially as he wrote and directed the first instalment waaay back in 1987) and quickly garnered a big cult following with numerous novels and short stories to his name.  I first discovered this man through his ‘Books Of Blood’ anthologies and although I haven’t read some of his more epic tomes such as Abarat and Weave World, I have admired his imagination and prose for many years.  So this return to the horror genre and one of his most famous characters, the hell priest Pinhead was an exciting prospect.

I don’t read all that much, but make an exception for ‘Barker, who for me is far more interesting than his immediate rival Stephen King.  I’m therefore looking forward to really getting absorbed by this latest masterpiece.

clive_barker

British born writer, artist and film maker Clive Barker.

The Midnight Meat Train


Viewed – 01 June 2009  DVD

I read this short story quite a few years ago and was part of the reason I became such an admirer of writer / painter / director Clive Barker.  Oh, that and his debut movie, the legendary Hellraiser.  Yet it is also a sad fact that this guy’s directorial work has been very hit and miss, and I suspect that making films is not where his heart is at, instead choosing to be one of the best horror / fantasy writers around.   This movie is a fleshed out version of said little known short story in his acclaimed collection of stories known as Books Of Blood; grizzly, gory horror tales packed with imagination and terror.  Thankfully though this isn’t just another bastardisation of his material, but instead one he has had plenty of involvement with … even if on a whole his talent is mostly absent.

A photographer on the verge of hitting the big time becomes involved in the case of a missing super model he mistakenly photographs on the night of her disappearance, and his investigations lead him to a mysterious train passenger who also works for a meat factory, and may be involved in the model’s disappearance.  Of course we quickly discover that said train passenger is a brutal serial killer who (quite literally) butchers train passengers in the middle of the night, and the photographer finds his life in danger when the killer finds out about his investigation.

What helps this rise (slightly) above the glut of by-the-numbers horror is inventive, stylish direction from Ryûhei Kitamura, and some very gory set pieces, that are only let down by a heavy dose of CGI that ends up making some of the gore look fake.  Thankfully though there’s plenty of entertainment to be had from Vinny Jones’ word-less killer, his mere presence carrying the film, and Bradley Cooper proves a likable anti-hero even if there’s plenty of actors who could have filled his shoes and done just as well, if not better.

For a Clive Barker movie, its glossy, gory fun but not much else … and his name deserves better.  Yet taken on its own merits, this is a decent slice of horror with enough style and striking images to linger in the memory.

Verdict:  3 /5

Hellraiser


Viewed – 22 May 2009  Blu-ray

Definitely one of the most celebrated and talked about horror movies of the eighties, Clive Barker’s unique Gothic gore-fest was a breath of fresh air to those drip-fed on rinse and repeat slasher movies where the only real difference was a different mask or more tits on show.  No, what Barker brought to the table was a different vision of horror all together, one that closely resembled his writing style made famous in the acclaimed Books Of Blood short stories, and as he was also a recognised painter / artist, the films striking visual imagery was enough to make it stand out from the crowd.

pinhead pic

The story follows a drifter, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases a bizarre puzzle box and decides to play with it in what appears to be a satanic ritual, hoping to have his urges pushed to their limits and beyond.  He gets more than he bargained for as the quartet of demons known as The Cenobites (!) unleash the ultimate pain and pleasure on him, and he ends up little more than human remains under the floor boards of his brother Larry’s house.  This all transpires in the film’s unnerving and creepy opening scenes, but once Larry (Andrew Robinson) and wife Julia (Claire Higgins) turn up, domestic bliss is restored – or is it?  Soon we discover Julia was once having an affair with Frank, and her past love for him is put to the test when a decomposing Frank returns and asks Julia to kill for him so he can once again be restored to human form.  A perfect plan but for the involvement of gutsy daughter Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence), who soon becomes the film’s unwitting heroine.

Although the film inspired a franchise of increasingly weak sequels, and brought lead Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) to cult horror fandome, this movie is more about the goings on in the four walls of a very creepy house, secrets that should have been left buried, forbidden love, and meddling with forces beyond our understanding.  Ashley Lawrence is the stand out as plucky Kirsty, at first vulnerable and wholesome, and soon the very hero the film needs as evil demonic creatures surround her, both familiar in the shape of step-mother Julia (a fantastically evil Claire Higgins) & twisted uncle Frank, and the stuff of nightmares with the brilliantly designed Cenobites.  I’ll also add that the make up effects here even 22 years later are superb, and yes in this digital age there are some moments that look a little fake, but Barker’s eye for striking-imagery mask most of the rubber and latex.  One of the finest and most iconic horror movies ever made.

The Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay boasts a very clean and vivid picture that although a little soft focus, complements the films dark and gothic look, and in addition we are presented with a Dolby True HD soundtrack that especially brings the haunting orchestral score to life.  Bonus features have interviews with Ashley Lawrence, Andrew Robinson, Doug Bradley and Clive Barker, some of which are involved in the film’s feature length commentary – very nice.  Overall an excellent package for fans of the movie and anyone looking for a quality horror title on Blu-ray.

Verdict:  5 /5

Some light reading?


I have always had an interest in both reading and writing fiction.  Although to be honest I haven’t read as many books as I would have liked to.  Books I have read from beginning to end (usually over the course of several weeks / months – I lack patience, you see) include:

Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood Vol.1-6

These are short stories, so it was a good book to leave and return to.  I’m not sure if I have actually read each story though.

Val McDermid’s The Mermaid’s Singing

This is a proud achievement for me, a lengthy book that I just couldn’t put down.  Has since formed an episode on TV’s Wire In The Blood, which I’ve never watched.

Belle De Jour: The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl

This was an easy book to read, with its diary structure, and was very entertaining, funny and erotic in places.  Recently turned into a TV series starring Billie Piper.

Clive Barker’s Mister B Gone

Nearly finished this one, and its very good…classic horror but unique at the same time.  An ancient demon talks to you directly as he recants his adventures during the middle ages.  Burn This Book!!

Also I have just picked up a new book, the latest from British crime writer Mark Billingham, called Death Message.  Hopefully it’ll be good.  Got it after seeing him interviewed on Sky Three’s ‘The Book Show’.  A likable guy, so I was drawn to his writing.

I also hope to get back into fiction writing myself at some stage.  Its a hobby that can take up a lot of my time, and at the moment I am editing and generally trying to improve my existing work, and submitting them to websites for feedback.