"The glorious thing about horror is that this is the only genre where you can kill the entire cast." - Bernard Rose
With a learned quote like that, it's hard not to side with writer/director Bernard Rose. Of course, his atmospherically unnerving horror cult-classic CANDYMAN doesn't quite cotton to the theory of the aforementioned quote, but it comes damn close. And that might be the best thing about Bernie Rose's career as a filmmaker, rewriting and playing by his own cinematic rulebook. Genre flicks like SMART MONEY, BODY CONTACT, PAPERHOUSE, CANDYMAN, IVANSXTC, SNUFF-MOVIE, SX_TAPE and others...whether blooming fresh smelling buds or prickly thorns, Rose knows only one way of doing things. His own!
So, as Mr. Rose is set to release his new horror flick FRANKENSTEIN later this month, please feel free to join us as we gear up to do something that's long past its due date. Ladies, gents...help us Dissect the body of work of one Bernard Rose!
IMMORTAL BELOVED just might be Rose's finest overall endeavor, but come the f*ck on, CANDYMAN is the one flick that ought to be interminably etched on his tombstone. What a film! Put it this way, what other movie of Rose's has inspired an entire franchise with multiple (albeit decreased quality) sequels? That's what I thought! Now, it's true that Rose had very little to do with said sequels and continuations, as did Clive Barker for the most part, but so what. That's actually a positive in our minds, as Rose has bears little to no responsibility for almost unwatchably inferior addendums to a franchise he most certainly did not set out to shepherd when first making CANDYMAN in 1992.
So let's instead focus on what's become a bona fide hall of fame horror movie villain in CANDYMAN. The legend and lore surrounding the character has become just that...a spook story that in some ways predates the film, but cements its legacy forevermore with its frightening depiction. The whole notion of summoning a hook-handed demon by whispering his name into a bathroom mirror five times in the dark is a brilliant one on the page, but made even more terrifyingly real when put onscreen by Rose in 1992. Of course, the inspired casting of Tony Todd as the titular baddie and then his ultimate foil in the sexy fresh-faced Virginia Madsen makes all the damn difference in the world. Without such credibly committed actors, the horror in the flick would never quite rise above a mere childhood ghost story.
Then of course there's the grimy urban production design and flickering lighting schemes of longtime Nicolas Roeg D.P. Anthony B. Richmond (DON'T LOOK NOW, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH), which only adds to the moldering demeanor of the entire picture. There's a grittiness, a seediness we don't see often enough in horror movies, as the flick was shot in the real life project housing segment of Cabrini-Green in Chicago. A real, palpable sense of danger is felt, because it's authentic, not staged. This, to our minds, goes a long way toward the success of what makes CANDYMAN so decrepitly rotten and unsettling to see. Tether all of these points to the fact that the film financially made its budget back fourfold in the U.S. alone ($6 to $25 million), there's no doubt CANDYMAN is Rose's most sweetest smelling flower!
We all know every Rose has it thorn, right? Oh boy. First things first, we'd be remiss not to mention how, in 1992, the same year he released CANDYMAN, Bernard actually wrote and directed a pair of episodes of a soft-core Playboy series called INSIDE OUT III and INSIDE OUT IV. Granted, the second one he helmed entitled "Motivation" was actually shot by friend and collaborator Sam Raimi and starred his brother Ted Raimi as an actor who is sent to the desert to work on a movie, only to realize once there that the movie is a porno. Completely ludicrous, more of a lark than anything else, but certainly not the high point in Rose's decorated career. Not the absolute nadir though, either!
No, for that indignity, we need only go back three years to find a movie that's so woefully inept that it can't even spell its title correctly. Trust us, if you happened to sit through the unsexily revolting trash-heap called SX_TAPE, you know what we're referring to. If you want to relive all that's wrong with this one, check out the 3/10 review we gave the flick when it was released in 2014. The short version? The movie amounts to little more than a boring, chintzy 80-minute amateur film. A wilted Rose indeed! So bad that SX_TAPE actually makes the previously thought low-bar, SNUFF MOVIE, feel like a more titillating watch!
Outside of his genre stylings, it's quite clear Rose favors Leo Tolstoy as a recurrent muse. Flicks like ANNA KARENINA, IVANSXTC, THE KREUTZER SONATA, THE DEVIL'S VIOLIN, etc. are all based on Tolstoy works. Beyond that though, a commonality of Rose's that indeed carries over to his horror movies, is the recurrent casting of longtime genre vets Tony Todd and Danny Huston. Todd of course has been apotheosized in his role as the titular CANDYMAN, a role of a lifetime that cemented the actor as a formidable foe and legitimate horror movie mainstay. Huston on the other hand, well, if you've not seen Rose's debauched cautionary tale IVANSXTC (IVAN'S ECSTASY), do so at once. Huston gives a tour-de-force as a coke-addled, self-destructive Hollywood agent spiraling down a path of spiritual bankruptcy. Horror of a different stripe!
Further consistencies in Rose's work can be traced to the technical. See, of his 20 or so feature films, Rose has written 12 of them. Perhaps more impressively, he shot 7 of those 20, and edited another 4. What does this say? Simply that Rose is a hands-on filmmaker who has some level of creative control over almost every aspect of the projects he works on. Auteur might be too strong a word, but given his track record, Rose ain't too far off!
With such an eclectic body of work, it's easy to glance past a few notches among the checkered filmography. But fret not folks, that's why we're here. See, there's at least two movies among Rose's 20 or so that we think really deserve further inspection. The first is a very bizarre piece of dramatic fantasy called PAPERHOUSE, and the other is a super cool little extended cameo he did for pal Sam Raimi in ARMY OF DARKNESS. Let's get into it!
PAPERHOUSE is truly a sight to behold. What a weird f*cking flick! If you've not seen this one, do so ASAP, as it features some of the most mystifyingly surreal imagery we've ever seen. Not quite an out-and-out horror flick, but as the film devolves into a hellish nightmare, the inherent terror definitely takes hold. Such a sparse, pared down, beautifully shot film, one of simple yet striking images, that stays with you long after the credits have scrolled. The story follows a bored and lonely young girl who escapes her crippling ennui by drawing in her sketchbook. So detailed and enraptured she becomes in said world that she's soon able to communicate with a little boy who suffers a handicapped affliction. We basically reside inside the twisted musings of a young girl's mind. That is, until it becomes obvious that the line between reverie and reality come crashing down in the end of the film to reveal a wholly unique resolution you won't see coming. By any and every metric, PAPERHOUSE is a very good movie, and one Rose ought to be given more credit for!
Now onto one a little more fun. How many of you knew that old Bernie here played one of the 16 Fake Shemps in Sam Raimi's wildly entertaining cartoon of a sequel, ARMY OF DARKNESS? Yup, that's our boy mixing it up with William Lustig, Ivan Raimi and other equally cool walk-ons in the giant extra-filled battle scenes among Ash and the deadite army. Cool shite! Not just as a piece of where's waldo trivia, trying to spot him when he appears on screen, but also in the year it was released. Being good pals, to see both dudes have such abject fun in 1992...the year both CANDYMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS was released, is a tribute to just how on top of the moviemaking world they seemed to be at that time. Well, until they did INSIDE OUT IV together that same year!
Luckily for us, or unluckily depending on its eventual merit, we won't have to wait very long at all for Rose's newest bloom. As you may know by now, Bernard has decided to fashion the age old FRANKENSTEIN tale with a modern-day makeover his own, set in Los Angeles. The aptly titled FRANKENSTEIN, starring the always lovely Carrie-Anne Moss, is poised to stalk the streets February 23rd. Here's how the story, which Rose scripted himself, promises to shake out:
Set in present day Los Angeles and told entirely from the perspective of the Monster. After he is artificially created, then left for dead by a husband-and-wife team of eccentric scientists, Adam is confronted with nothing but aggression and violence from the world around him. This perfect creation-turned disfigured monster must come to grips with the horrific nature of humanity.
I'm not sure how you're feeling about it, but I quite dig the modern-day update of a classic horror tale. How this one will fare in comparison to the much more traditional, big-budget offering of last year's solid VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, is anyone's guess, but I'm glad Rose didn't just make the same kind of Victorian era monster movie we all have come to identify FRANKENSTEIN with. Plus, with longtime Rose faithfuls Tony Todd and Danny Huston onboard, we should be in for a surefire 90 minutes of well-acted entertainment!
It's damn good to have Bernard Rose on our side of the moviemaking aisle. Ever the champion of genre cinema, Rose has forged his own way in movies like SMART MONEY, BODY CONTACT, PAPERHOUSE, CANDYMAN, IVANSXTC, SNUFF-MOVIE, SX_TAPE, as well as the various Tolstoy adaptations in ANNA KARENINA, IVANSXTC, THE KREUTZER SONATA, THE DEVIL'S VIOLIN, etc. Now, the results are certainly a mixed bag, but as a guy who very often writes, directs, shoots and edits his own movies, the larger creative imprint he has throughout his body of work is no less impressive. Let's just hope that he can showcase such a fresh, personal stamp when reviving the age old FRANKENSTEIN tale later this month. What do you say, think he can do it?!?