Candyman returns, as a white family confronts their history within the context of America's long, ugly racist past.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 10: “She Talks to Angels”
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Home Sweet Home” – click here
The finale is directed by none other than Friday the 13th Parts II and III alumni, Steve Miner! Very exciting, as we finish off Dead of Summer‘s wildly fun and unpredictable first season.
Amy (Elizabeth Lail) has been fully taken over by Malphas, as the rest of the crew are left without much clue. Jessie (Paulina Singer), Deputy Garrett (Alberto Frezza), and Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) only have the camera with all of Joel’s (Eli Goree) taped material. At least they have some kind of proof. For now, if Malphas doesn’t decide to eradicate that, or them, too.
They shove off from Camp Stillwater, each unsuspecting of the evil still lurking in Amy. When the cop car Garrett drives goes dead, the battery suddenly shutting off, things get spooky. The demon in Amy reveals itself, saying that Holyoke (Tony Todd) left the “last piece of his soul” inside Jessie. Worst is when Amy brings out the dead t0 help her – Joel, Cricket (Amber Coney) – and now everything is scarier than ever before.
Garrett sees his father Jack (Dan Payne) out on the dock at Camp Stillwater. He disappears into thin air. Then he wakes up. It’s the day before all the counsellors show up for summer in 1989. He tells Sheriff Boyd Heelan (Charles Mesure), a.k.a the teacher. But no real help there, clearly. I guess hanging out with a weirdo you don’t yet know is a weirdo would be much better than where they are now, running from Malphas and his legion of undead.
“How do we stop a demon?” asks Alex. Right before they discover a bunch of murdered corpses in the cabin. Afterwards, Malphas drops in to cause a bit of mischief. Meanwhile, bussing all the kids away from camp Drew (Zelda Williams) and Blair (Mark Indelicato) get an eerie, urgent warning from the little boy who used to see Holyoke. He tells them to go back; their friends need help.
And they do. Garrett’s hurt, although he makes sure Jessie and Alex know: “This is bigger than us.” They’re forced to leave him behind. Such is the case when you’re in a supernatural horror mystery for real, I guess.
A flashback takes us to Blair before camp. Cricket comes to see him with a new mix tape. He’s busy washing HOMO off his car; so sad. She tries to assure him things will change now that they’re finished high school. He’s a romantic, though, and wanted to meet a guy. Sadly they take about it being “me and you forever” and things we know can’t come true because of her untimely death. In their present situation, Blair and Drew try calling the cops. I don’t know if that’ll do any good. Kudos to the writers: not often in horror does anybody actually try the police.
Lots of creepy shit is happening now in the woods. Alex and Jessie come across Blotter’s severed head on a tether-ball pole. At the same time, Malphas-Amy is calling out to anybody left at camp to play a game of capture the flag. Except the flag “is Jessie,” the demon cackles through the speakers. That scene honestly felt like it came right out of Stephen King. Dig it.
When the cops arrive at Stillwater they’re greeted by Amy – similar to how she looked as child, informing the firefighter her family is dead: “They‘re dead. They‘re all dead.” Only problem being that she now has the place totally under control. Over the speakers, Malphas-Amy talks in the policeman’s voice; the one she’s dispatched. Because the demon needs more blood to fill the lake.
Alex tries going head-on with the demon. He gets an axe to the chest, savage and bloody. Yikes. A quick and nasty death for the poor Russian immigrant, just looking for a better life. Now, Jessie is on her own out in the forest with the demon hunting her down. Soon enough she finds Garrett, Drew, and Blair.
Either way, Jessie lures Malphas-Amy into a cabin where they circle her inside purified water along the floor. In the other cabin Garrett plays the music from Holyoke’s recording, but there’s nothing on it anymore. Remember when Amy stroked the wax before they discovered she was still possessed? I knew it. God damn you, Malphas!
Well the shit hits the fan. Undead Joel, Cricket, Deb, they all show up.
Ah – Garrett remembers the tape. It has the music on it. So he broadcasts it through the walkie into the cabin, causing Malphas-Amy and the undead great pain, repelling them.
And when Malphas is weakest, Jessie plants an axe right into Amy’s head. The blood runs out of her, the demon returning to Lake Stillwater and disappearing below the surface, hopefully never to return again.
They’ve survived, those who are left – Garrett, Jessie, Blair, and Drew. Out in the water, the dead wade back down to the depths. A fitting goodbye to them all, as the friends watch them all go.
Plus, Townie and Braces are once again together. Or are they? He’s just a ghost. I knew it, again! He died out on that bench in the woods. Love allowed him to linger on as a spirit; the light from Holyoke gifted him the extra time to help. That’s better than what I predicted before – him becoming another undead during the last big fight.
The three remaining souls walk themselves out of Camp Stillwater, for the final time. Ghostly Garrett heads into the water of the lake, to his friends, and his father. A place for everything and every thing in its place. Life moves on with Jessie going to college, Blair and Drew road tripping to Seattle for a Bowie concert (and totally in love with each other). All is well once more.
I honestly loved this show’s first season. Hoping there’ll be a Season 2. While it wasn’t perfect, it both played up to the horror genre tropes and also subverted expectations in that regards, as well. It didn’t have to be perfect. The nostalgia, without going too overboard, along with decent writing and interesting characters made for lots of fun.
And now Stillwater’s up for rent. What could happen there? Oooooooooh.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 9: “Home Sweet Home”
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Ian B. Goldberg
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Devil Inside” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “She Talks to Angels” – click here
Heading into our penultimate Season 1 episode, Joel (Eli Goree) is dead, and the others have now discovered that Holyoke (Tony Todd) isn’t the madman they thought he was, nor is anything as it seems.
A young woman hitches a ride to Camp Stillwater, saying she’s worried about a friend. Hmm.
Amy (Elizabeth Lail) is possessed. Everyone is prepared to do what they can to turn her back into who she was once upon a time. At Holyoke’s cabin, Garrett (Alberto Frezza), Jessie (Paulina Singer), and Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) prepare to do a “purification” on Amy, to try and get the demon out of her. Holyoke explains what must be done, as well as the fact it’s not going to be easy. At all.
While the counsellors are trying to get rid of the demon, Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) busses the campers off, as Blair (Mark Indelicato) and Drew (Zelda Williams) make preparations of their own.
Everybody’s waiting to face off with the big bad demon. Soon enough.
Back to 1980 – a young Amy doesn’t get much love from her family, mostly just annoyance and misplaced aggression. Her brother is the worst, telling his younger sister their parents don’t want her anymore. She winds up killing her brother’s pet rat, by accident. And we can see that Amy has always been a little different, a little innocent. Meanwhile, in ’89, Holyoke is explaining things about the demon to the young people now helping him. “We must call to the spirits of light,” Holyoke tells them. It all starts with a few hymns on the piano. From the lake something rises. Then Holyoke himself is evaporated into thin air, blood and bone and all.
Nobody is safe.
Once again in ’80, Amy’s brother plays a trick on her. He locks the little girl in their garage and she’s there until morning. A firefighter comes in to find her laying on the floor. This act of childishness by her brother wound up saving her life: Amy’s entire family die of carbon monoxide poisoning after the flue in the fireplace closed. Wow. That’s god damn heavy.
In ’89, the young counsellors and deputy try figuring out what went wrong. Garrett wants to go the original recordings of the hymn Holyoke played. But Jessie wants to “be the spirits of light” on their own. She thinks by using the knowledge they have, the books and notes, so on, they can do the ritual themselves. In order to save Amy’s soul. Reluctantly, Garrett and Alex go along. Not as if they’re wrong to do so. Jessie has her heart in the right place, and also – who the hell knows how anything works in a world filled with ghosts, demons, Satanist cults, and more? Either way, Jessie, Alex, and Garrett do their best to call Amy back to herself, away from the demon. That demon Malphas doesn’t make anything too easy for them, though.
Blair, Drew, and Deb bus the kids through the woods. Yet the further they go, the thicker a mist appears in front of them. Like a wall. Until blood starts raining down over the bus, covering the windows, frightening all the children. The bus driver heads out to make sure they didn’t smash something onto the road. Big, big mistake, as he gets dragged off into the misty horizon. Something outside scrawls LET ME OUT on the bloody windows.
At the cabin, Malphas uses Amy to toy with each of the counsellors – talking to Garrett in his father’s voice, coming on to Alex with seductive Russian. Not a good time. Jessie and the boys press on with the ritual, and it isn’t any easier on Amy than it is on them. All the pain of her life flows outward. She later bites into Garrett’s neck. Malphas fights to stay in his vessel and they fight against him. Things get real wild once Malphas takes full control, tossing people around the cabin and manipulating everyone/everything in his path. He has Amy prepare Garrett for a hanging, unless Jessie opens the cabin door to let him free.
But I can’t help worry for Deb, out in the woods alone, as Drew and Blair try getting the bus to move. She finds the bus driver, dead and bloody, and something growling in the nearby woods. “If you want someone, take me,” she says in the darkness. Keith (Dylan Neal) comes out of nowhere. To comfort? No, to kill. He strangles Deb telling her all the young people will die, because of her: “You brought her here – the perfect vessel.”
And in the cabin, Jessie allows Malphas to take her as the vessel.
In he goes. So what next?
Alex puts Jessie in the lake water, closing her in. Keith disappears into the lake, the blood clears from the bus and it starts again. All is right once more. Well, not everything. At least Amy’s alive, Garrett is safe, so is Alex. Except Jessie gave herself over to defeat Malphas, which isn’t something Amy feels good about. So she pulls her friend out and tries doing CPR. After a properly dramatic wait, Jessie spits out the water, breathing hard. And defying the prophecy of Holyoke that nobody could survive the process; Jessie is one pure lady!
When all is said and done Amy takes a moment alone. To say goodbye to the place.
We go back to a month before Camp Stillwater opened. Amy meets Deb at the edge of the lake. She finds that there’s no space for another counsellor – unless a counsellor doesn’t show up, or drops out, the like. So we go to that night when Amy and her friend Margot went to the party; that fateful night. Now, the events are shown in a much different light. All to get to Camp Stillwater, Amy lets her friend go. “Unfortunately there is only room for me,” she chillingly tells Margot before letting her grasp slip. That girl from the opening scene of the episode – it’s a friend who witnessed the aftermath at the party. That’s intriguing. Even more so once she shows up, only to get murdered with an axe by Amy.
Yikes. Poor Deb has really been through the ringer. She has to deal with an axe-wielding Amy, confessing to killing her own family and all the evil she’s been up to, even before Malphas came along. She was an evil little seed, anyway. The demon only made things more epic in nature. Oh, yes – Deb gets the axe, too.
A nice little montage takes us through the deaths at Camp Stillwater, each perpetrated by Amy herself under one of those eerie cult masks made out of wicker. She was there, lurking everywhere. Behind Garrett when he shot the Teacher. When Blotter got his head cut off. Every single death.
And for the time being, Malphas has everyone convinced he’s long gone.
Wow – this is my favourite episode so far! I loved it. Death, blood, wild revelations, some backstory. All sorts of madness. The finale is titled “She Talks to Angels” and I’m so excited to find out what Dead of Summer has in store for us.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Devil Inside”
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Steven Canals & Richard Naing
* For a review of the previous episode, “Townie” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Home Sweet Home” – click here
Chicago, 1988. Jessie (Paulina Singer) arrives back at her place to find her mother partying, the place filled with smoke. Seems like she’s living in a place not built for what she wants to do, which is study, try to get into a good college and likely get up out of that neighbourhood. Her mom convinces her to let loose and have a bit of fun. Cut to ’89, she talks to her mom on the phone. They’re in a much different place than they were last year. What happened that night?
Well, right now there’s stranger things afoot. Camp Stillwater is rocked by the “terrible things” that have recently gone on. Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) says everything’s over. She is shutting the place down, to the chagrin of Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Joel (Eli Goree), Blair (Mark Indelicato), Alex (Ronen Rubinstein), Drew (Zelda Williams), and Jessie. Nobody’s pleased. Although they’re setting out to make their last couple days at camp memorable.
I’m sure Holyoke (Tony Todd) is looking to do the same. And when a solar eclipse begins to darken the sky, Jessie’s mind begins to darken. She sees a dead Cricket (Amber Coney), who warns about the dangers at camp: “It‘s not over. It‘s awakening.” She says Jessie has to take Holyoke’s bones to the lake. But it doesn’t feel like she’s there as a helping hand. Maybe this is more Satanic madness. No telling yet.
The counsellors go out to play Blind Man’s Bluff. Of course, Jessie is first. As she spins, voices encroach on her sanity, she hears strange noises and whispers. Amy notices. Jessie tells her about what she saw, what Cricket prophesied. But Amy believes it’s Holyoke trying to manipulate further events. “The only people we can trust are each other,” she assures Jessie.
Back to ’88. Jessie is straight laced, she’s going into work and also preparing for her North Western interview. Something has clearly caused a huge change in her within that one year from where she is now at Stillwater, to where she was then.
In ’89, Jessie talks with Garrett (Alberto Frezza). He worries because the teacher, his supposed old family buddy, says he didn’t kill the counsellors. Who did it? For the time being Garrett believes the ritual awakened the demon. He goes on the journal of his father. He worries about the eclipse, as it’s a sign the demon has been conjured. Only the journal says they have to “kill the vessel” – and the vessel = Amy. Jessie tells him about what dead Cricket advised her to do. They have to throw Holyoke’s bones in the lake.
Joel feels compelled to end things because of his brother Michael’s torture at the hands of Holyoke. He wants to burn down that old cabin, to somehow cleanse the place of that evil presence.
Meanwhile, Jessie is sneaking out to the morgue just as Joel finds his way into the creepy cabin. This is an excellently edited scene, cutting as back and forth. Jessie finds the bones and gathers them up. However, the dead bodies of the cult members come to life, Damon (Andrew J. West) speaking in the voice of her mother. The place turns into a horrorshow. Simultaneously, Joel discovers a book full of Satanic writings. He rushes to find Jessie – Holyoke is indeed trying to trick her. The demon needs those bones to go in the lake. Jessie and Garrett believe otherwise; that Amy, the vessel, has already been possessed by the demon. Drastic measures ahead.
Garrett and Jessie go to Amy, they ask her about Malphas and whether anybody said the word in that cave. They’re testing her. That golden cross Jessie wore is given over to Amy, as protection. There’s no real reaction, though. Soon, Alex bursts in and lets Amy in on what’s happening. Uh oh. Trouble in the ranks. Maybe this is what Holyoke wants, dissent between the friends. A little while later dead Cricket comes to Jessie again, revealing a vision of the demon headed for them if the bones do not go into the lake.
We switchback quickly to ’88. Even though Jessie almost missed her interview, due to her mother messing up and not being there to bring her on time, everything went well. There’s still something coming here, something that will change the mother-daughter relationship.
Drew and Jessie have connected. They have trust in one another. Drew tries to make Jessie believe in herself and trust her own thoughts, follow her own path. Not so easy, I guess. Considering whatever happened in Jessie’s past.
Well, the bones get tossed in the lake. Then the sky goes completely dark, all light disappears. It’s as if Joel and Jessie are now in a different time. They see Holyoke (Tony Todd) leading people into the lake, followed by Satanic cult members who start murdering everybody. Seems Holyoke was framed for being a crazy cult leader bringing people to suicide. When all along the eerie cult has been responsible. Joel and Jessie are led back to the cabin. “What you think you know, you do not,” Holyoke explains to them. He says the demon still resides in Amy. He wants to save the girl: “Let no harm come to her. That will only empower the demon.” Oh, Holyoke! You’ve turned into someone completely different than we imagined back at the beginning. So exciting.
We get one more glimpse into ’88. Jessie fights with her drunk mother. Mom is a selfish woman who believes she’s being left behind by her daughter, a.k.a Jessie’s going to college to better herself. So they get in the car, drunk mom driving. Then a car smashes into them. We can see this coming a mile away: Jessie takes the shit for her mother. This dashes her chances at a great college. So, so tragically sad.
The gang are all mostly on the same track. They even let Deb in on it. Problem is the fifth point on that map Garrett found is where Amy and Alex are with the camp kids. Once they find Amy, she puts a knife right to Alex’s throat. Joel manages to stop. Before she sinks the knife into his throat instead. “Fooled you,” she taunts while holding up a palm branded with a cross.
And rather than do what Holyoke intended, Garrett tries blasting Amy away. Doesn’t work that easy. Not when a demon’s involved. Holyoke then appears to haul Amy and the demon inside her away. Whoa! What a turn of events. Plus, another camp counsellor down as Joel bleeds out from his neck wound.
Out at the cabin, Holyoke sets out to try exorcising the evil spirit within Amy.
I’m so pumped! This Mick Garris-directed episode was great. Unexpected, too.
Next is the penultimate Season 1 episode titled “Home Sweet Home” – I can only imagine what sort of things will come out. Very, very excited.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 4: “Modern Love”
Directed by Tara Nicole Weyr
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Mix Tape” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “How to Stave Alive in the Woods” – click here
After the terrifying events of the previous episode, we open on Chicago in 1978. A little girl named Andrea draws a picture of herself. As a boy. When her mother reinforces the gender obvious to her, Andrea replies: “I am a boy.” This is most certainly Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams) as a young girl. Before Andrea became Andrew. “You can‘t hide what you are,” her mother tells her. In Summer of ’89, Drew does his best to conceal the gender given to him at birth.
Jessie (Paulina Singer) acts like a bitch, as usual, questioning Drew why he doesn’t shower where everyone else does. But quickly that gives way to normal, everyday stuff. Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) acts like a dick, too. Cricket (Amber Coney) brings the mail around, Joel (Eli Goree) reels of movie references (Friday the 13th Part VI this time), and so on. Everyone is concerned about Amy (Elizabeth Lail) seeing as how she was hit by lightning. Just like Jason Voorhees. Then up shows Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell) to assure everyone the girl is fine.
At the diner, Deputy Garret Sykes (Alberto Frezza) tries his best to take care of the post-lightning strike Amy, bringing her chocolate shakes and trying to make sense of everything. She talks about seeing a face in the water, in the redness, that looks just like the stag’s skull on the map Sykes is carrying around obsessing over. He, of course, doesn’t reveal that he is much more interested in all the occult stuff floating around than he lets on. Probably just to try keeping Amy from freaking out.
Drew sees a creepy vision of a little girl holding a red balloon. He slips into the water, soaked to the bone. He gets a towel from Jessie, who knows Drew is Andrea. Though he has a secret on her, as well. But there’s a rivalry now. One that’s definitely going to get worse. There’s plenty other madness happening. Cricket starts to worry more about her supposed dreams of the masked people; she finds out from Joel that Camp Stillwater has a bit of history with those types of things, the fact Deb has one in her closet. Everybody’s got something darker plaguing them. Mostly, poor Drew finds himself flashing back to being forced to be a girl by his mother, not wanting to try on dresses and lamenting the boys allowed to be themselves. In a dressing room Andrea, still young, receives her first period. “This isn‘t supposed to happen to me, I‘m a boy,” she pleads with her terribly reluctant mother. In ’89, Drew can’t stop seeing the girl and the red balloon. Everywhere.
The whole crew is beginning to question their collective sanity. Amy talks a bit about the history of the land, though she gets shut up quickly. Until a kid runs out with Cricket’s boots from the lake. More to make Cricket wonder.
Flashbacks let us in on Drew going to therapy with his mother. She continually tells her “My name is Drew” and only wants her acceptance. “As long as you‘re in my house you will be Andrea,” her mother replies. A divide that may never, ever close, a wound that likely won’t ever heal.
Alex decides to use Joel’s camera to figure out more about Deb. They find the videos he takes of her. They also notice the box she seems to hold so tight. After Joel comes back he isn’t happy. However, when they let him on her suspicious behaviour he only becomes more divided from the group. As usual, a typical slasher-style trope has the group dividing. Meanwhile, Drew and Blair (Mark Indelicato) talk together. He gives Drew a tape of David Bowie, as well as talks about meeting a friend at camp who just immediately got him, his sexuality, his choices – Cricket. The Bowie tape helped him come out and gave him confidence. Now he tries to give that Drew, too. I love Blair. He’s an awesome dude. I hope that the devil worshipping cult doesn’t kill him.
Furthermore, Jessie is blackmailing Drew by taking video of him showering. Nasty.
We flashback once more to Andrea, forced into wearing the clothes she’s mean to, as designated by her gender. Alone in his room Drew wears the clothes in which he feels comfortable, then sneaks out of the house to live a little. Heading for a Sonic Youth show it seems.
Cricket and Alex are going to Deb’s cabin. They find the closet and the box, but speak of the devil, Deb comes back and interrupts things. Then Joel arrives, as the other two hide. He’s there to see the box, after which he and Deb leave. Damn. The mystery is thick.
Leaving camp, Drew finds Jessie coming to catch him. She reveals there was never any tape. Likewise, Drew says he was never going to tell anyone about Jessie and her court dates. They actually have a human conversation. About being scared, about “trusting the wrong people” and other things. Jessie does the right thing and tries talking Drew into coming back. A nice moment that makes Jessie a lot less shitty than she seems initially. The typically pretty, stuck up girl who acts like she hates everyone just to hide how she feels about herself.
The possibility of a demon being awakened is real. This is Deputy Sykes’ thought. Although he’s more concerned with tracking down the crazies making the attempts to do so. And we can’t forget there’s at least a bit of craziness in Deb. She brings Joel to the forest and takes a book from the box she keeps. You can tell there’s a sinister element lurking beneath the surface. For the time being they embrace in the night, out in their secret little place.
At the masquerade dance, Drew kisses Blair. They share a passionate moment, as Drew takes charge for once in his life. Then we get another flashback to Drew dealing with his mother. She’s willing to accept everything. “I saw you, Drew,” her mother agrees in an emotional moment of acceptance. So emotional it almost cripples Drew at the start. Wow. That absolutely killed me. Such a great moment to cut back and forth with the kiss at the masquerade. And so while they share their passion, as do Joel and Deb privately share themselves. Love is in the air. Or steamy sex, I don’t know.
Amy’s not getting any loving tonight. She and Sykes are both on their own in the forest respectively. He’s got the most trouble, as he sees Amy wander out to the lake where she holds the hand of a horrible monster from under the water. Now, she gets herself a bit of loving, too. Some presence came over her. She doesn’t even remember the past few moments. Eerie.
When Drew takes a moment, not wanting to reveal himself quite yet to Blair, he finds a ton of red balloons piling up in the bathroom. This is also cut with a flashback to Drew finding out his mom isn’t so accepting after all. She’s left a picture of the daughter of long ago, Andrea, and her red balloon. With a note saying see you later. Mom can accept, but can’t accept. And this continues to torture Drew. He goes to Blair revealing he – Andrea – was the one to give him the tape years ago. Yet even Blair doesn’t quite accept it all. That’s a fucking heart breaker right there. By the fire Jessie consoles her new friend Drew and they find solace, if only for a moment.
This was a nice episode. Held back on the horror to provide us more with character development. There was a bit of psychological horror, as well. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s It. Next episode’s title is “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” and I’m looking forward to a dose of blood. We need it. Still, a great episode that worked wonders for me. The character of Drew is beyond fascinating. Zelda Williams does so well with the role. Give me more!
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 1: “Patience”
Directed by Adam Horowitz
Written by Ian B. Goldberg, Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis
* For a review of the next episode, “Barney Rubble Eyes” – click here
I’ve anticipated this one. Good or bad, I’m rolling with the reviews for this season.
Our first episode opens in Stillwater, Wisconsin during 1871. The Tall Man (Tony Todd) plays a piano in candlelight, as a bunch of men come for him. They tie him. At the same time, there are flashes, visions of dead bodies floating in the water.
With that we’re transported to the summer of 1989, three days before Camp Stillwater opens up. There’s a camp reunion of people going back, though Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) is a newcomer. The rest of the gang seem to know one another, from camcorder-wielding Joel Goodson (Eli Goree) to Blair Ramos (Mark Indelicato) and more. They’re all fairly welcoming. Although we can already see the archetypal slasher horror characters set up. That’s not a bad thing considering the writers are going for that type of atmosphere. I dig it. Later when everybody gathers with the head honcho at camp, Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), another straggler appears – Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams). There’s a nice ’80s feel to everything so far, as well, and best part is that I don’t feel it’s forced. They don’t overdo it.
We know the place closed down in ’84. That’s our first clue to something having happened there. I wonder what the eerie secret is?
Well we’ve got the new girl in town, Amy, so that’s a nice setup. She has to navigate high school and being new around the place, which is of course not always easy. At camp, she has a bit more of a safer place to be herself, as Deb preaches to them. Maybe she’ll be able to open up and have some fun instead of being judged constantly. Around the campfire they all start to immediately talk about creepy stories, so much so it gets a bit too real. We get the obligatory jump scare from one of the crew sneaking around in the dark. Further than that we get more of Amy. In the woods, she comes across Dave (Darren Moore) the gardener, who prophetically tells her that she needs to leave: “You don‘t know what this place is,” he bellows.
The next morning things get going, from camp activities to recounting giving handjobs at the age of thirteen; ahhhh, camp! A semi-sexual moment happens when Joel is filming with his camera and catches Deb in her window, only a bra on – she doesn’t close the window, smiling slightly, as Joel wonders what the hell’s going on. Yowzahs. This summer is definitely going to get wild.
When a couple of the girls find a gutted deer in the nearby woods everybody’s a little disturbed. Amy tells Deb about Dave’s scary warning the previous night. We’re cooking with gas now. Already the paranoid suspicions typical of the sub-genre have begun.
Flash to Amy back at school when first arriving. We get more of her personality. She isn’t the type to get roped into anything bad. But there’s always something sinister lurking, at high school or at camp. Back at Stillwater, they’re all doing some nighttime swimming. There’s a brief moment where we see a bit of Carolina Diaz (Amber Coney), how she doesn’t want to take her shirt off and go in a bra; will that lead to some character development? Either way, when Amy finally goes in her luck ends up with a discovery of a dead body: Dave.
Cops arrive at the camp. Deb doesn’t seem too put off, though is clearly concerned with the camp counsellors. Nobody’s overly beat up about Dave’s death. That night when Amy goes to get some water she runs into an off-duty Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza) who wants to have a better look at things in Dave’s old cabin. He walks Amy back to camp. He endears himself to her, talking about his “first everything” and so on. Could this guy have sinister intentions? You’ll never be sure. For now, he seems perfectly on the level. Yet even the very earth and the trees itself seem to drip with evil.
Amy and Garrett go into the gardener’s cabin – stupidly, a police officer brings someone in there, in the dark at that. Nevertheless, these are tropes of the sub-genre. And they do find some goodies – fermenting appendages, a skull, strange old photos including one of the Tall Man from a little over a century ago. Either Dave was up to some strange shit or somebody’s planted it to look like he was a Satanist, or something eerie. Then a fire breaks out, nearly trapping the pair. Amy gets out, managing to chop out some boards from the side of the cabin to get Garrett out. A-ha. There’s definitely SOMEONE pulling greasy tricks behind the scenes. The supposed claim is that the fire was electrical. Garrett knows better than that. Even better he managed to slip an old map out; it points to the centre of a beast-like shape where the camp is located. Back at the other cabins, everybody speculates as to what happened with Dave. And more creepy little moments happen – Drew sees a little girl with a red balloon outside, before she then disappears quickly. Inside, the crew talk about movies from Rosemary’s Baby to the original The Wicker Man. At least before some cattiness goes on, Jessie Tyler (Paulina Singer) leading the way, as usual. Poor Amy, yet again, is tasked with going out into the dark, always on the losing end of the teenage call of NOT IT. Well, she and Alex Powell (Ronen Rubinstein) kiss, anyway. Not sure if that’s a good or bad call. What I enjoy is the cutting between past and present, that helps expand Amy’s character. Right after that we’re shocked when she sees a ghostly presence behind her and Alex. Then she gets sucked into a closet where dead hands grab at her everywhere. A terrifying vision.
The morning after, Amy sits by the lake. She flashes back to her and Margot (Morgan Taylor Campbell), preparing for a party, prior to the latter’s mother freaking out; one of those uptight mothers wanting their child to go to a certain school. They’re sneaking out for a party: “Sometimes you have to do things that scare you,” being their mantra. Back to the lake and Amy is confronted by a faceless, dark shape in the night. It stalks her before she runs into Garrett. Only she can see what’s coming for her, and this automatically puts her at odds with reality. Unfortunate for her. Back to when she and Margot go to the party, Amy drinks, she dances, as her friend feeds her shots. This is a great instance of writing and editing put together, which goes from the party to the lake and back again. On a wharf she finds hands grabbing her; hands that aren’t there. At the party, police officers arrive at the house and Margot panics trying to get out, which results in her tumbling out the window and hitting the ground – the only thing left after Amy tries holding on is the charm bracelet she still wears at camp. This is what drives her psychosis in the present timeline. Garrett helps calm her then they talk a bit more about the Dave case, albeit cryptically. Then more nighttime swimming. Camp goes on, right? Jessie isn’t happy when she sees Amy close to Garrett. And then Guns N’ Roses plays, the titular “Patience” of this episode. Everyone swims, has fun.
Up in her cabin, Deb pulls out a little box from under her bed. She also finds Joel taping her again, except this time she shuts the blinds. Mysterious. We start getting a look behind the mask of all these characters, each and every one of them with their own secrets, their own pasts and mysteries. This begins filling things out for us, even within the first episode, so that hopefully the writing will build off this good stuff. Finally we get a look at Drew, who is actually a woman if anyone wasn’t able to tell. More of a look at Jessie, too, as she reveals herself to be the Braces to Garrett’s Townie. Ah, so that’s why she looked so bitchy.
The end of the episode reveals, through the camcorder, an entity standing in the background while everybody swam earlier – is that The Tall Man? Or someone else equally as ominous?
Let’s find out together. Next episode is titled “Barney Rubble Eyes” and you can expect a recap/review very soon. Digging this first episode. There are silly moments, but I’m almost assuming those are meant to feel typical to the slasher sub-genre. Still, I’m willing to keep giving this a shot. I liked their first episode. Here’s to hoping the writers and directors can keep up the pace, the excitement, all tinged with some blood and horror. Who knows what’ll happen.
Candyman. 1992. Directed & Written by Bernard Rose; based on the story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker.
Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams, DeJuan Guy, Marianna Elliott, Ted Raimi, Ria Pavia, Mark Daniels, Lisa Ann Poggi, Adam Philipson, Eric Edwards, Carolyn Lowery, & Barbara Alston. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment/Propaganda Films.
Rated R. 99 minutes.
The idea of a hook hand often has its roots for people in the area of urban legends. So already the infamous, titular Candyman plays on fears. Add to that an excellent basis in the short story “The Forbidden” from Cliver Barker’s Books of Blood. As well as the fact Bernard Rose – proven by his 1988 feature Paperhouse – has a proven ability to give people the creeps.
This 1992 horror film is an amalgamation of different ideas. You can see it as a straight-up slasher horror. Then again, can you? It’s part slasher, part ghost story sub-genre. So there’s a definite crossover of genres here. Some of my favourite movies weave from one genre to the next. Rose expertly crafts a spooky urban legend into a living, breathing work of horror that reaches out of its roots in the past and grabs hold of us. On top of it all, Candyman can be taken as an allegory for urban horror and the white guilt people feel standing on the outside looking in, encountering worse horrors after invading places where they just don’t belong. Or maybe it’s anti-colonialist, set in the sprawl of the urban jungle of the Cabrini-Green housing development of Chicago’s North Side. Either way, Rose takes us to the heart of darkness. He touches on everything from the ghosts of slavery to very real, visceral horror. This is one of my favourites out of the 1990s in terms of horror. I still remember first seeing it, and now when I watch it still scares me. A great ride through fantasy-horror territory, along with a solid dose of human drama to give the terror some actual weight.
Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and her friend Bernie Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) are students that decide on writing their thesis concerning local urban legends and myths. At the Cabrini-Green housing complex, they investigate the legend of the supposed Candyman (Tony Todd). He is a one-armed man that appears from nowhere if you repeat his name five times at the mirror. What Helen and Bernie decide, not believing in such legends, is to do their thesis on how those legends are actually based around real events, which create these sorts of entities that then dominate a culture.
Only, this legend? May just be true after all. And when Helen finds herself framed for a murder committed by that very same Candyman which she could not bring herself to believe in, the horror of its reality becomes brutally clear to her.
One thing I love about this one is that, at the beginning of the 90s, this movie came out with some real mature horror. The rest of the decade included Scream (though I love it) and other stuff like Urban Legends, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and other similar slashers, which are all filled with pretty young teens. And I’m not saying Virginia Madsen isn’t a beauty. But the fact this story is all centered around adults is something special. Sure, it isn’t innovative for that, it’s not like there aren’t tons of other movies out there in the horror genre involving adults. There’s simply a perfectly timed aspect to Candyman, jammed between the late 90s and those aforementioned titles, and those which came before it in the 80s where slasher movies were often populated with teens being sexualized and promptly murdered after their various debauchery. This is one horror villain whose range exceeds the typical slasher. Not only is he a ghost, an entity of the wretched past, he doesn’t need a stable of teenagers for victims. So it isn’t some schoolyard ghost story, or an urban legend told in the dark around campfires or in the bedrooms of teenage boys and girls during sleepovers. The legend of Candyman moves beyond the realm of childish scares and enters the adult world of nightmares.
While Clive Barker’s original story “The Forbidden” is based in England, the adapted screenplay from Rose moves things to America, specifically to Chicago and the Cabrini-Green housing development. I dig the story, Barker has a knack for all things macabre. However, I also dig the way Rose has transposed the story into an American setting. Because so much of this screenplay deals with the white guilt of Americans over their racist past. In a sense, Madsen’s character Helen embodies the ultimate experience of white guilt. She wants to investigate the supposed Candyman murders, she goes to Cabrini-Green, a place completely out of her element, and she superimposes her perspective over that of the black residents. She wants to shape their story for them, just like all those other white folk that come in wanting a story, wanting something. So through a metaphysical ghost story Helen becomes a real part of the legend, framed for murders committed by this entity, Candyman. Her white guilt has taken her from an outsider’s perspective, to one of a woman whose guilt is palpable and all too real. So now she no longer tells the story, she lives the story. She is the story.
Most of all, Helen’s experience with the Candyman is symbolic of America’s constant, consistent struggle with its racial history. All the horrors of slavery, everything that came out of that period. The story of Candyman’s becoming and the men who terrorized him is a vicious tale, befitting of the post-Civil War era where those memories of slavery still linger, haunting the people, descendants of those who endured amazingly savage experiences fueled by the irrational hate of racism. And it can never be escaped. In the end when Helen tries to do the right thing, or at least the best thing she could at that point, she must purge herself in the fire outside Cabrini-Green. Because it is not her place from the start to interject herself into the black struggle. So she becomes the opposite of what she’d hoped, a woman who kills black people, steals a black baby, all setup by the Candyman. Her white guilt and need to be the white saviour is shockingly derailed, which allows Rose to also give us some wonderful, vividly nasty horror, too.
The gorgeous, dreadful vision of Bernard Rose and Clive Barker collide in 1992’s Candyman, still one of the movies that scares me most. There will always be unsettling aspects to Tony Todd’s villainous persona. But everything down to the writing and execution of the effects, all of it, works as a complete package. Horror and sociology come together to make this ghostly slasher something bigger than the sum of its parts. It isn’t a by-the-numbers sub-genre horror that simply goes through the motions. At times Candyman plays perectly into those expectations, others it subverts the norm we’d usually expect. Regardless, it is a terrifying modern horror that plays on white guilt and repressed racial history. It haunts my nightmares to this day. You can’t ask any more of a scary movie.