Saturday, September 18, 2021

What I Watched in August

I guess it’s accurate to call CANDYMAN (2021) a slasher film but it is more than just an excellent example of that sub-genre. Less a reboot than a sequel, this new movie brilliantly advances the mythology of the central boogeyman in the same way that Bill Condon’s CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) did. It takes the bones of the original film and builds ever more impressive details into the broad strokes already set in place. The idea of focusing on another black artist in modern day who finds himself looking for inspiration among the urban history of the legend of Candyman is quite smart. It allows the film to show a parallel between the creator and his subject even as the poor modern painter seems only slightly aware of the dangers of such interplay until the bodies start piling up. This takes the story into wonderful territory, blurring of the lines between monster and artist asking questions that slowly become more deadly. What is a creator’s responsibility to those around him? What are the lines that exist to warn of real dangers in the world that a bold artist crosses at great peril – not just to himself but to those his life touches? How can a questing soul recognize the deadly areas when the warnings all sound like simply criticism? Is it only bravado that causes someone to tempt death by doing the one thing that can bring death to stalk you? (Say his name to your own reflection five times.) How does vanity play into the ‘call’ of death? The film even has a brief scene that mentions the unintentional horrors inflicted on children by their parents? So many ideas!
If you ignore the subpar third film and just view the first two and this new movie, we can see the creation a marvelous horror series. The expansion of the Clive Barker story of an urban legend into a much more universal story of the horrors of creative curiosity is incredible. This is how films used to build larger, more intricate worlds in their sequels. The way George Romero broadened his small-scale zombie story to larger and larger locales and bigger, scarier societal fears. The way George Miller’s original Mad Max trilogy took the character on a life changing post-apocalyptic journey that brought him full circle to a new family. This new Candyman film shows how it would be possible to use this character and concept to explore racial themes and, in fact, almost any subject related to it through the use of horror’s often ignored symbolic potential. Smart writers can push past the simplistic ‘zombie’ and hook-handed killer metaphors and dig into darker examinations of hidden motivations and sublimated desires. Damn! This film makes me excited to see more!
As you can tell, I liked it. 

The List 

SHANGHAI CHEST (1948) – 6 (Winters is not bad as Charlie Chan) 
THE BLACK HOLE (1979) – 4 (rewatch on Blu) (what a terrible script) 
THE HUMANITY BUREAU (2017) – 5 (Nic Cage in a mediocre dystopian tale) 
MISCHIEF NIGHT (2014) – 4 (pretty bad horror effort) 
THE HUMANOID (1979) – 6 (rewatch) 
THE DROWNSMAN (2014) – 4 (beautiful but uninvolving horror) 
FANATIC (1965) -7 (rewatch on Blu) (a.k.a. Die! Die! My Darling) 
THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972) – 7 (rewatch on Blu) 
THE NIGHT COMES FOR US (2018) – 8 (amazing Indonesian action/crime film) 
BLACKHAT (2015) – 5 (weak Michael Mann thriller) 
DISTORTED (2018) – 5 (OK mystery/thriller with about six minutes of John Cusack) 
THE PHANTOM SPEAKS (1945) – 6 (criminal returns from the dead to exact vengeance)
UNKNOWN TERROR (1957) – 6 (goo monster in a cave!)
SHE DEVIL (1957) – 6 (medical experiment creates evil woman)
QUEEN OF THE SEAS (1961) – 7 (fun swashbuckler with Lisa Gastoni) 
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES (1946) – 6 (interesting medical ‘undead’ tale) 
RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944) – 4 (rewatch on Blu) (gloriously daft Poverty Row horror with Lugosi)
THE LADY AND THE MONSTER (1944) – 6 (Donovan’s Brain) 
REFUGE OF FEAR (1974) – 6 (low budget Spanish made post-nuclear war story)
SHOW BOAT (1936) – 8 (wonderful musical) 
REMINISCENCE (2021) – 4 (gorgeous but a muddled script sinks it) 
GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) – 6 (rewatch on Blu) 
THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021) – 9 (rewatch) 
THE BYE BYE MAN (2017) – 4 (empty attempt at a horror film) 
NAKED OBSESSION (1992) – 5 (Martino’s too obvious erotic thriller) 
HIT THE ICE (1943) – 6 (Abbot & Costello romp) 
CANDYMAN (2021) – 8 (excellent new sequel) 
OLD (2021) – 7 (well-made supernatural thriller) 
MONSTER HUNTER (2020) – 4 (videogame-based slog) 
TAZA, SON OF COCHISE (1954) – 5 (3-D western w/Rock Hudson)

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