The squandered genius of writer-director Bernard Rose is a subject worthy of a documentary. After some steady work as a hired helmer in British cinema, Rose made his writing-directing debut with 1992's Candyman, a movie that, by all rights, should have been a forgettable B-grade chiller about a ghost who haunts a ghetto, but which I vividly remember seeing in theaters on a double-bill with Steven Seagal's Under Siege. Since I was only 14 at the time, I was very appreciative of Under Siege -- specifically Erika Eleniak's nude scene -- but I was absolutely terrified of Candyman, and remain so to this day. By the time Rose's second film, Immortal Beloved, rolled around, I was already a fan and fell for the lush, full-throated and historically absurd sophomore effort as much as I had for Candyman. Then came 1997's expansive, shot-on-location-in-Russia film adaption of Anna Karenina, starring Sophie Marceau, which took in less than a million dollars at the box-office, effectively ending Rose's Hollywood career just as it was beginning.
Should Rose ever be given entrance into the brass ring again, we can only hope his skills are still sharp enough to make movies like Candyman, which does so many things right I can hardly list them all. This is a horror movie that gets depressing right -- how many movies can hit that note? After you've seen it, you don't feel like you've had a "thrill ride" or a "good scare"-- you feel like the world is a grim, depressing and inescapably hopeless place. The plot: two sociology grad students at the University of Illinois, played by Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons, decide to investigate a locally born urban legend figure known as Candyman (Tony Todd) -- say his name a few times in the mirror and he'll appear and gut you with his hook. Their research leads them to Chicago's Cabrini Green, a notoriously gang-infested housing complex that's sort of like a North Shore Compton, only scarier because it's comprised of dilapidated high-rise buildings with rotting walls and empty staircases that just scream out 'very bad things have happened here.'