As the handful of readers of this blog may have ascertained, I’ve taken a lengthy hiatus from posting to the site. The break roughly corresponds to one I took from production on Terminal Device itself. Other demands in my life, combined with dissatisfaction with the cut of the film I had, compelled me to set it aside for a while, and pursue a couple of short projects in the interim.
As of August I’ve taken up re-editing the film. I started more or less from scratch, and even switched editing software (FCP to Premiere) to ensure I wouldn’t simply crib from the last cut. The current iteration feels much closer to what I am after; it’s more cinematic, less plodding and methodical, and simply more fun to watch. Hey, I’m looking to entertain people with this peculiar story, as otherwise who’ll want to stick with it?
Part of the work of re-thinking the film involved further research, which for me has included an examination of mainstream films featuring upper-extremity amputees. And that brought me back to the Candyman horror franchise from the 90’s. I wrote about the first film in my previous post. I have to report that the second, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, and third, Candyman: Day of the Dead, are neither of them quite as interesting as the first. They reiterate much of what is in Bernard Rose’s film without the same layered complexity or the fluid sense of dreamspace that the first Candyman film achieves. Neither of the female leads are up to the standard set by Virginia Madsen in Candyman, although Tony Todd as the anti-hero is consistent, and I was pleased to see that he was given credit as a co-producer on the third film.
That said, there are a couple of noteworthy ideas the two films explore. In Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, the Candyman character is situated as he was in the first film, a murder-victim of 19th-century racist violence.
His physical pain–anaesthetic-free amputation, deliberately-induced bee attack–and the consequent evil and injustice this represents are suggested to be so immense that he has returned to haunt succeeding generations. He deathlessly embodies the ill he was served, in other words. While none of this is new information, the second film explicitly shows the amputation in flashback. The gruesome scene depicts a measure of horror with the cutting off of a hand that is neither supernatural nor necessarily confined to the realm of cinematic fancy.
Whether it encourages more sympathy than revulsion for the Candyman character is perhaps an open question (as in the first film, we’re obviously meant at some level to empathize with him, and to think of him as more than a cartoonish slasher-monster). What I liked was that the flashback accurately shows what it is to lose a hand: life altering, terrible. I liked too that the sequence returns to the present and has Candyman vary his demand to “Be my victim…” with the plea to “Be my witness.” This call to testimony transcends the simple, physical detail of amputation to say, in effect, that it is a stand-in for the larger, true injustice of racist vigilantism.
The third film further varies Candyman’s backstory by suggesting that he was a great if underrated painter (pursuing a rather staid, academic style, if you ask me). We already know that as a black man, he had the temerity to fall in love with his rich, white, female subject. The resolution of the story in Candyman: Day of the Dead, turns on the female protagonist having to kill the ‘good’, as only with its existence can the evil in turn exist, as represented by Candyman. Well, the good is embodied in Candyman-the-artist’s paintings, which miraculously still exist in the film’s present-day timeline. (By the way, there are nice bits of art-world exaggeration and ridiculousness going on, including showing a couple of patrons wearing very dark sunglasses at an opening…) Kill the good, i.e. destroy the man’s art, and the evil dies too, or so we’re encouraged to believe. It’s a reductionist view of things one might say (and obviously I disagree that art should be destroyed), but for the sake of a simple narrative, I suppose it holds up as well as anything.
I liked that art is posited as the opposite of evil. That’s a simple but effective truth, in my book.