Candyman: Limited Edition Blu-ray review

Arrow Video serves up plenty of hi-def sweets for the sweet with this beautifully restored, feature-packed Blu-ray revisit of the horrifying Clive Barker adaptation...

Based on Barker’s short story The Forbidden, writer-director Bernard Rose's 1992 fright film stars Virginia Madsen as a Chicago grad student whose research into an urban legend about a hook-handed killer leads her into a world of unimaginable horror.

As much as this might sound like the setup for a standard issue slasher, as you might expect given the talent involved, Candyman is a far smarter breed of film, subverting the usual genre tropes while using its story to explore issues around racial injustice. It's also brilliantly acted, beautifully photographed and, best of all, genuinely scary.

Picture: Candyman made its UK Blu-ray debut in 2011, courtesy of Universal Pictures, with a VC-1 encode marred by black crush, posterisation, flat colours and a lack of fine textures. All of the familiar tell-tale features of one of the label’s old off-the-shelf HD masters, in other words.

Based on a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, Arrow’s brand-new restoration improves on that earlier encode in every single way. Not only does the 1.85:1 imagery look so much more film-like and organic thanks to the beautifully resolved grain, the uptick in clarity and definition ensures there's far more detail on display, the enhanced textures giving the photography a much more tactile and three-dimensional quality. The colour palette is also far more pronounced now, bringing a much-needed warmth back to flesh tones and a vibrancy to primary shades.

The only exception to the above is the alternate footage seen in Chapter 9 of the 'UK Theatrical Version' (see Extras). Despite scouring the archives at Universal and Sony, the team at Arrow were unable to find any pre-print elements for this footage and instead had to make do with an original Rank distributed 35mm print discovered at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. While this was scanned and restored in 2K, as you would expect, it retains a more ‘dupey’ appearance that is far less refined and features slightly duller colours (a comparison can be seen below). However, as there’s only about 15 seconds of this material, it really is of minimal concern.
Picture rating: 5/5

'R-rated' version...

UK Theatrical Cut...

Audio: Arrow's release also trumps Universal's disc in the audio department. The original stereo soundtrack featured on that platter is also present here (albeit in a remastered LPCM form) and is joined by a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Compared to the original soundmix, the 5.1 track is surprisingly sympathetic, making subtle-yet-effective use of the surrounds to open up the soundscape. The biggest benefits of the remix come from the enhanced LFE (you can actually feel Candyman's voice now, not just hear it) and the way in which it gives Philip Glass’s unforgettable score (a haunting mix of organ music and choral chants) a little more room to breathe.

The ‘UK Theatrical Cut’ of the film forgoes the 5.1 remix and sticks with the remastered LPCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: The first disc hosts the ‘R-Rated’ US cut of the film plus the bulk of the extras, kicking off with a pair of brand-new audio commentaries. The first is a rather freewheeling affair with director Bernard Rose and Candyman himself, Tony Todd, which kicks off with a discussion of Avengers: Infinity War, but soon settles down into something a bit more focused. The second track finds critics Stephen Jones and Kim Newman putting their knowledge of the genre and the 1980s Crouch End literary horror scene to good use discussing Barker’s original short story and the film itself.

Following on from this are new interviews with Tony Todd (10 minutes), Virginia Madsen (13 minutes), production designer Jane Ann Stewart (six minutes) and the makeup effects team of Bob Keen, Gary J Tunnicliffe and Mark Coulier (eight minutes). Horror writer and critic Douglas E Winter looks back at the film’s literary origins in a discussion of Barker’s Books of Blood short story collections. Meanwhile, scholars and writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes provide a critical analysis of the film’s handling of race.

Rounding out the first disc are the trailer, an image gallery (containing poster art, video covers, lobby cards and stills), and trio of early short films by Bernard Rose – 1975’s A Bomb With No Name On It (four minutes), 1976’s The Wreckers (six minutes) and 1977’s Looking at Alice (27 minutes). The shorts have also been restored and are all presented in 1080p with LPCM audio.

The second disc houses the 'UK Theatrical Version' of the film. For those unfamiliar with the film’s release history, the version released in cinemas and later on VHS in the UK featured an alternate (bloodier) version of the psychiatrist's office scene to what was shown in US cinemas. However, every subsequent DVD and Blu-ray release (until now) has been based on the US version. As such, the ‘UK Theatrical Version’ has become something of a holy grail for fans – so its inclusion here is to be celebrated.

The second platter also houses a fascinating new interview with Clive Barker that covers a surprisingly large amount of ground regarding his life and career considering it runs just shy of half-an-hour.

Our one and only complaint is that Arrow’s Blu-ray doesn’t include any of the extras that appeared on the 2008 UK Collector’s Edition DVD (a commentary featuring Barker, two featurettes and storyboards). There absence isn’t a huge loss, but die-hard fans might want to keep hold of the old DVD anyway.

This limited edition set also comes bundled with six lobby card reproductions, a reversible fold-out poster and a fully illustrated booklet – but none of these were provided for review purposes.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: A stunning Blu-ray reissue for a modern genre masterpiece, despite the missing Barker chat track.

Candyman: Limited Edition, Arrow Video, Region B BD, £30 approx