Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman... Now In *Real* 4k!

So, everyone's talking about Candyman this month, both because of its brand new 4k restoration, which I'm about to tackle below, or because of the recent buzz of Jordan Peele being in talks to produce, and possibly script/ direct, a remake.  Now, you guys already know I'm a pretty big fan of Get Out, but still, even assume Peele takes a strong creative lead, I'm not sure I'm too jazzed on the idea.  Admittedly, like how this latest Halloween film was bound to be an upswing in its franchise given how the messy the last bunch of Halloween flicks were, I'm sure Peele would be guaranteed to improve upon where we left off with Candyman 3: Day Of the Dead.  But the original Candyman is just one of those films where all of the elements came together in just such a perfect alchemical way, that I just don't see any way for additional attempts but down.

Update 11/19/18 - 5/26/22: When Scream and Arrow released their new 4k scan on 1080p blu, some people, people clearly shrewder than myself, held off on purchasing it, saying it was surely only a matter of time until said scan was released on a proper 4k Ultra HD disc in full resolution and HDR. Of course they were right, and here we are, and I've just triple-dipped.  ...But at least I was right about Candyman 4.  😜
Because Candyman is a serious contender for the absolute best horror film of the 90s.  And it's got to be one of the very few films of any genre to actually improve upon and top its literary source material.  It's based, of course, on Clive Barker's short story from his stellar Books of Blood series.  But by transporting the story to America - specifically Chicago's Cabrini Green - and adding the very fertile topic of race to the already thematically rich tale, it manages to hit you so much deeper.  On the one hand, it really works as a classic ghost story, like those BBC ones based on classic literature (another post for another day), but then it's as contemporary and vivid as any modern film.  Tony Todd and his gruesome hook convey a surprising combination of earnest pathos and enough mean-spirited gore to satisfy any jaded horror fan.  In fact, it's first class performances all around, even when a lot of dramatic weight is placed on the shoulders of a young child actor.  You've got cutting edge photographic techniques, knock-out special effects that hold up to this day (Todd had real live bees in his mouth! You know they'd just animate that with CGI now) and Phillip Glass's elegant score.  Really, what's a reboot going to deliver that this film hasn't already provided?
So Candyman originally came out on DVD via Columbia Tri-Star in 2000, as a barebones flipper disc with a fullscreen version on the other side.  They upgraded that in 2004 with a proper special edition, which is the DVD I've got for us today.  Now, there was a blu-ray version before the current pair of 4k restorations.  It came out in the UK in 2009 from Paramount, but it's not highly regarded: barebones (yes, they dropped the DVD extras) with edge enhancement.  Still in HD and a genuine upgrade from the DVDs, but not pretty.  In 2018, though, it's getting released by Arrow in the UK and Scream Factory here in the US.  Apparently, they worked together on this, sharing most of the new extras (though there are key differences, which I'll address below) and the same "new 2k restoration from a new 4k scan of the original negative, supervised and approved by writer/ director Bernard Rose and director of photography Anthony B. Richmond."  I went with the Scream Factory edition; and when both labels released it again in UHD/ BD combo packs this week, I stuck with Scream.
1) 2004 Columbia Tri-Star DVD; 2) 2018 SF (theatrical cut) BD;
3) 2018 SF (unrated cut) BD; 4) 2022 SF theatrical BD;
5) 2022 SF uncut BD; 6) 2022 SF theatrical UHD; 7) 2022 SF uncut UHD.

To start off, the DVD would have you believe it's 1.85:1, but I've left the negative space around the first set of shots to show you that it's actually slightly windowboxed.  It's anamorphic, mind you, but still slightly boxed in, and those vertical bars actually crop the image to more of a 1.81:1.  The new blu has pretty much the exact same framing, but it's actually 1.85:1, because it lifts the bars to show the extra image that they're masking.  It also has a smidgen additional picture along the top and left.  But of course, the real story is the huge boost in clarity.  For one thing, the colors and contrast on the DVD are flat and dull compared to the blu, which really pops.  The DVD has a faded look, plus a bit of a red hue over the whole film.  Just look how completely different the color of the ground itself is in the first set of shots.  Grain is fine, if a bit light in areas on the blus, but only sort of hinted at on the DVD, which just looks sort of lumpy when you get in close.  The standard definition compression results in haloing that looks at first to be edge enhancement, but might just be the result of artifacting caused by too low bitrates.  Of course, the HD takes care of all of that, and the edges look crisp and unencumbered by any such digital noise.

The UHD is also 1.85:1, but film grain is so much more distinct and thoroughly captured than the blus; it's a strong distinction.  The increased color range doesn't necessarily "pop" out in a more dynamic way, but it gives the film a more natural look.  Just look at the garbage pile, for instance, where bright spots flared out to pure, blinding whiteness.  But on the UHD, you can see all the authentic shading and detail (and film grain) that was lost on the blu.  When I sat down to watch this one for the first time, it wasn't a "wow!" moment, but it's another step forward in picture quality.
theatrical cut top; unrated cut bottom.
At this point, I trust you've noticed two sets of shots for each SF disc.  That's because Scream (as well as Arrow on their release) have included both the widely released theatrical cut and the original unrated cut.  The difference comes down to only one scene, and about four seconds of footage.  Both cuts basically feature alternate shots of the same kill, so both cuts are the same length.  And the unrated cut is barely any bloodier.  But anyway, because the negatives contain the theatrical cut, they've had to insert "HD footage from a rare print."  I'll say this.  You definitely do notice the jump in quality in motion (visually and in the audio) on the BDs and UHD, particularly the thicker, unrulier grain; but the inserts look pretty darn good.

Anyway, the DVD gave us a nice, solid stereo mix with optional English subtitles, plus French and Portuguese dubs and subs.  Scream 2018 bumps the stereo mix up to DTS-HD, again with optional English subtitles, plus an even more boisterous 5.1 mix, also in DTS-HD.  And Scream 2020 keeps the same stereo track and subtitles, but replaces the 5.1 (on all three discs) with a Dolby Atmos track.
The special edition DVD was actually pretty sweet in terms of extras.  It's got a pretty ideal audio commentary by Bernard Rose, Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, Kasi Lemmons, Clive Barker and producer Alan Poul.  Then they've got a fairly comprehensive little 'making of' doc that comes in at about 24 minutes and an additional, extended interview with Clive.  They also include an animation of some very colorful storyboards and a couple bonus trailers (though not the Candyman trailer itself).  All great stuff.

Now, before we get into where Scream and Arrow differ, let's get into what they have in common.  Both share a very cool collection of original special features.  First, there are two brand new audio commentaries: one with Bernard Rose and Tony Todd, which I'll talk more about in a moment, and an expert commentary by the always reliable Stephen Jones and Kim Newman.  Then, there are great (and rather tightly edited and paced) on-camera interviews with Tony Todd, Viriginia Madsen and production designer Jane Ann Stewart .  These are great, as is a featurette on the special effects featuring interviews with Bob Keen, Gary J. Tunnicliffe and Mark Coulier.  Then there are a couple more critical pieces, with Douglas E. Winter delving into Clive Barker's original short story, and a conversation about the racial aspects by writers and scholars Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes.  They actually talk about how the film might be done differently today... something we may wind up seeing for ourselves if that Peele project sees its way to completion.  Both blus also offer the trailer (finally) and a small image gallery.  All also great stuff.

But like I said, things differ.  First of all, Scream carries over all of that DVD stuff, right down to the storyboards.  Arrow does not.  And now I'll get into that Rose and Todd commentary, because they take it fairly lightly.  It's a very breezy, entertaining chat, that routinely drifts very far from Candyman.  They talk about other movies, like Avengers 3 and A Quiet Place (by the way, I agree with Rose on that one), current projects they're working on, Todd's childhood, Rose's greencard...  On the Scream Factory release, it's great, because you already have them doing a regular audio commentary, so you wouldn't want them repeating all the same anecdotes and observations.  But if you have the Arrow set, it's going to be a frustration that they barely say anything about Candyman.  So that's a big advantage for Scream.
The other Tony Todd on-camera interview.
Next, Scream has some really neat exclusive extras.  They have another, second on-camera interview with Tony Todd, and on camera interviews with Kasi Lemmons (who laughs a lot) and the guy who played the kid, DeJuan Guy. These are great, really fun interviews not on the Arrow set.  They also have another, fourth audio commentary with Rose and the guys from the Movie Crypt podcast.  This one's more light-hearted, too, but stays a lot more focused on the movie itself... in fact, it's probably the one where Rose gets the most in depth into many of the nuts and bolts.  So again, that makes the Rose/ Todd commentary a much better fit for Scream than Arrow.  They also have an additional TV spot.  So another advantage for Scream.

But it's not all so one-sided.  Arrow has a couple of exclusives, too.  Namely, they have three short films by Bernard Rose, made when he was a young man in the mid 70s.  They also have a brand new interview with Clive Barker.  From what I've been able to gather, it sounds like he covers a lot of the same ground he did on his old DVD interview, which Scream has; but it has to be noted that Arrow's is substantially longer.
And now, in 2022?  Basically, all the extras are the same as in 2018 (yes, it still has all four commentaries, despite some online listings to the contrary), except Scream has added one new interview.  It's with Vanessa Williams, probably the most conspicuously absent face from the 2018 collection of extras, so this is a very satisfying addition.  She's probably here in part because she was brought back for Candyman 4, which she discusses; but most of her talk is dedicated to the original.

In terms of packaging, the 2018 Scream has reversible cover art with the original bee on the eyeball poster image and a cool slip cover.  Also, the first 2000 copies ordered directly from their website include a second slipcover and two rolled (not folded) 18" x 24" posters. For 2020, the artwork is not reversible, but it has new slip with the eyeball cover and if you ordered it directly from their site, it came with another rolled poster.
So okay, all you smarty-pantsers who saw the exciting new blu of the long-neglected original Candyman in 2018 and still had the fortitude to wait.  Now is your moment, the real UHD sets are here, and as expected, are the definitive way to go.  Arrow has a fancy new box with more swag, but Scream has the new interview, which clinched it for me.  Either way you go, though, it's a banner year for Candyman.

1 comment:

  1. The R version whatever blu ray release has always looked the better version than the 'uncut version' in terms of colour timing and aspect framing. To get maximum impact from this excellent film is to watch it uncut for a first viewing, if you have never seen the film before. Otherwise the differences are so slight between the so called censored and slightly censored versions. The sequel is not bad too nor the Candman remake which has its moments too and some creepy eerie music.