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Monday, August 23, 2021

‘Candyman’ Director Bernard Rose Details His Unmade Sequel in More Depth Than Ever Before [Exclusive]

phantom limb /ˈfan(t)əm’lim/ n. an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.

Welcome to Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which will take a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we will be chatting with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.

John Carpenter’s The Exorcist III. Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Dream Lover. Scott Spiegel’s Quentin Tarantino-penned Halloween 6. William Gibson’s Alien 3. Melton and Dunstan’s Halloween Returns. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.

In my better moments as a cinematic optimist, this writer has always fancied an idea that there’s some wonderful alternate universe out there in which every great unproduced film actually exists and can be easily viewed by all manner of movie fan. Any and every genre would be accounted for in this world, giving us never-were flicks ranging from schlock to masterpiece and everything in-between. And, of course, this would no doubt include all of the wonderful horror sequels such as the ones listed above that may have been teased over the years, but were never realized for whatever reasons.

One such unmade follow-up has always fascinated yours truly. As a massive Clive Barker fan who dearly loves Bernard Rose’s Barker adaptation Candyman, I’ve always been curious about the sequel that Rose had intended to make to his film, but was never able to. Though hints have been dropped over the years about the director’s approach for the project, there’s never been a detailed synopsis or thorough discussion as to what exactly his story would have entailed.

With Candyman fever on the rise in anticipation of Nia DaCosta’s upcoming reboot, this writer reached out to Rose in the hopes that he would be willing to discuss his own follow-up. To my surprise and delight, he agreed. What follows is a discussion on his unrealized project, with as little interference as possible.



“‘They will say your doubts shed innocent blood. But I say what’s blood for, if not for shedding? And in time the scrutiny will pass … and they will be left alone, to tell stories of the Candyman again.’ ‘Candyman?’ she said. Her tongue could barely shape the blameless word.”

Before helming what is widely considered to be one of the greatest horror films of the 1990s, Candyman writer/director Bernard Rose became familiar with Candyman creator Clive Barker’s work when he was pursued to helm an adaptation of Barker’s Books of Blood short story “In the Flesh”. While Rose really liked Mick Garris’ screenplay adaptation of the creepy tale, he ultimately determined that the project wouldn’t work on a purely technical level. However, the filmmaker did eventually discover another story in the same Barker collection that included “In the Flesh”, this one being the Liverpool-set supernatural slasher tale “The Forbidden”.

Concerning an urban legend known as “The Candyman”, Barker’s tale inspired Rose, who pitched an adaptation to Propaganda Films producer Steve Golin. The deal came together quickly, with Barker coming aboard as the film’s Executive Producer. As noted by Rose, the relatively low budget project, titled Candyman, flew under the radar during its making. “I would say, without exaggeration and without any vanity, that Candyman was the least important film they were making. In their minds.”

In crafting his adaptation, Rose transplanted Barker’s tale from a set of council estates in the UK to the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago. In doing so, Rose realized that it would be far more appropriate to make his titular character a black man, as opposed to the white, jaundiced figure from Barker’s source story. He also added a few flourishes to the character’s mythology, including the calling-into-the-mirror invocation and his tragic backstory as a lynched artist.

Once production on Candyman was completed, Golin made no attempt to mask his displeasure with the finished film. Indeed, the producer had hardly been a fan of the project from the very start. “He really, really had low expectations for it. And when he saw it, I think it’s not an exaggeration to say he actively disliked it,” Rose explained to us.



”There was no escape into a saner world than this. The Candyman filled her sight; her drained limbs had no strength to hold him at bay. ‘Don’t kill me,” she breathed. ‘Do you believe in me” he said. She nodded minutely.”

Before its release, Candyman began generating the sort of positive word of mouth that leads to bidding wars, which is exactly what happened in this film’s case. With TriStar Pictures emerging as the victor, the film was eventually released to respectable business in October of 1992. With the film a success, Rose approached Golin. “I said, ‘So what do you think…do you still not like this movie, Steve?’ He says, ‘No! It’s a great movie! Or it is now.’”

On the spot, Golin asked Rose to make a sequel straight away, to be released in just a year’s time. “So I made a deal with him to write and direct this film,” Rose says. “They were paying a good amount of money, that more than compensated for the deferred payment [from the first film] that I hadn’t been paid.”

However, the original film’s success had elevated Rose’s position in the industry, leading to plenty of meetings all over town for his passion project – the big budget Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. “I pitched it to everybody, and no one was buying,” Rose says. The filmmaker’s travels eventually took him to a meeting with Bruce Davey, of Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions. “I pitched him the Beethoven film, and he just loved it.” This led to another meeting with Gibson himself, who gave the project the go-ahead.

“His mind refused to accept what his eyes were seeing beyond the door. It rejected the spectacle as preposterous, as a dreamed sight. His reason said it couldn’t be real, but his flesh knew it was.”

Nevertheless, before Rose could tackle Beethoven, he was still obligated to deliver a second Candyman film first. His brainstorming led to an idea that he describes as “Quite radical. It was not directly following on from the story [of the first film] at all. But following on from the idea of the mythical ‘bogeyman’, and what its origins were. What it is about these sort of figures in history and in society that’s so universal and terrifying. You want to have this hurt, wounded, but terrifying brutal killer. And we’re still fascinated with this. Every show on Netflix is about a serial killer, right? All of them. If you took out the police procedurals, serial killers, and the medical dramas, there’d be nothing on that place.

“I started to think about – who was really the first bogeyman? By ‘bogeyman’, I mean ‘shadowy figure who will come out of the dark and just kill you mercilessly and mutilate you’. And who was the first one in history who really fit that bill? And of course the answer is Jack the Ripper. And so, I got very fascinated by [this idea].

I wanted to make something that basically would be about, as it were, the ghost of Jack the Ripper in modern London. The idea that he was this sort of mythical figure that kind of haunted … the East End. We’re talking about the London of the early 90s [which] still had these really soot-stained, really derelict areas where prostitutes would hang out on the street corners. No different from the 1880s. It still had that almost kind of Hogarthian feel about it, that was kind of disturbing.”

So what would Rose’s story have entailed, and how would this have included his interest in Jack the Ripper? Rumors had abounded for years that the initial plan for Rose’s sequel would have found Candyman subbing in for the butcher Mahogany in a loose adaptation of Barker’s classic short story “The Midnight Meat Train”. Were these rumors true, or did they miss the mark entirely?

“Basically, my story [titled Candyman II: The Midnight Meat Train] – the idea was that the [Jack the Ripper] murders start to happen [again]. And whereas the first Candyman was about race, the idea was to make the second Candyman about gender. It was to be about the idea of this faceless, brutal killer who only attacked women, in a horrific sexual manner. And whose primary objective was to stop ‘whores’ – his weird, moralistic take to it. That’s also very perverse, at the same time.

“So … the protagonist of the film was actually a British policewoman who starts to investigate the murders. And of course, as in all Ripper stories, the moment she starts to uncover all of these theories, these Masonic influences in the British police force coalesce to stop her. So far, so much like every other Ripper thing you’ve read, right? But…you start to realize as she’s getting more and more isolated from her policeman husband, and – in the same way as [Candyman’s] Helen – she was being more gaslit by all of the people around her. And the closer she got to the heart of the mystery, the more layers of strangeness floated around her – it became a weird procedural. At the same time, there was this threat that was coming closer and closer. And it all seemed to revolve around terrible things people had seen in tube trains rattling along the tunnels.

“It had a very, very extreme but rather wonderful denouement which was somewhat based on ‘The Midnight Meat Train’. I took the central gag of a train, which is basically a meat wagon with all the dead people hanging from the straps, bleeding on the floor. That was the climactic scene of the film. In [the original short story], the train pulls into a secret station where there’s an alien feasting on them.

“In my film … there was a secret railway station under Buckingham Palace, which led to a banquet hall where some members of the Saxe-Coburg family were feasting on naked women. Cannibals. I kid you not, that was how the film ended! With…I won’t name them even, because they’re dangerous, those people. You know who I mean, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas. Google them, you’ll find out they’re still in power.

“All these stories about the Ripper were all just bullshit. All the conspiracy theories, it was all a fantasy to hide the real objective – which was that the rich, the ruling classes, were going to dine upon the poor. And that they needed a special class of person called a “Ripper” to supply them with meat … for the feast.

“And the climax, the denouement, the gag was – she gets right to the bottom of it. And one of the things the Masons do, they did to all the people who knew something, was they cut the tongues out of anybody who could tell the story. She’d gotten there, she found out the truth, so they cut out her tongue.

“The end of the story was that she became the Ripper. She got the job. She became the first female Ripper. The idea was this progressive thing – the whole idea of it being a gender war, was only ended when she became the agent of it. It was a bit more complicated than that … it was kind of abstract, but it was hair-raising stuff, and really quite in-your-face. But…”

“He would have asked what kind of train this could be. Except that he already knew. The truth was hanging in the next car. It was smiling contentedly to itself from behind a bloody chain-mail apron. This was the Midnight Meat Train.”

“…what have you noticed about the story I’ve just told you?” Rose asks.

No Candyman?

Yeah. That’s right. No Candyman. He was mentioned in the story, because I had Purcell, the professor [from the first film] popping up as a character. And he basically said ‘The Ripper is *like* a Candyman’. So there we are. I had him in the script, and mentioned the word ‘Candyman’ once. ‘This is kind of like a Candyman’.

“I’ll give you three guesses what happened when I handed this in.”

They were upset that the star of their burgeoning franchise didn’t actually make an appearance in the sequel?

“Yeah, to which I gave them what I thought was a very logical answer: ‘But didn’t he die at the end of the first one?’ He fuckin’ dies, man. And no one has ever acknowledged that. Except for me, when I wrote the sequel. By this point, Steve was ready to throw the fucking table at me. Not entirely unjustifiably, I suppose.”



With Golin shooting down Rose’s idea as a sequel, the filmmaker proposed going ahead and making the film anyway as a standalone horror movie, with the Candyman franchise to continue on with more traditional sequels. “He didn’t want to do it,” Rose notes. “He basically said ‘You’re fucking crazy, man. You’re gonna make a film slaggin’ off the Queen. They’re gonna fucking lynch you, man.’ By the way, he was right.”

Though Rose was willing to work with the producers to craft a more acceptable sequel, their time frame proved too rigid. “Steve had gotten this bee in his bonnet. He never liked the movie, but he damned well wanted another one by the same time next year. And so he did. When somebody who’s a good producer wants something, they usually get what they want. And he did, he got the movie Bill Condon made. And Bill did a really good job, within the brief. I think the only thing that’s left over from what I wrote is the fact that Purcell comes back in Part II. That’s it. Nothing else.”

But didn’t Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh wind up taking three years after the original to get to cinemas? “Of course it did, ‘cause these things always do. I think Steve was just annoyed. I think he was just really pissed off that I would rather make a movie called Candyman II, and there’s no Candyman in it. He just could not understand how anyone could do that. And I’ll be honest with you, I probably would not do that now.” (Laughs)

Gary Oldman in ‘Immortal Beloved’

“But I did make Immortal Beloved the following year. So I wasn’t really being that stupid.” Rose pointed out that, during the writing of his Candyman II, his mind had already shifted to centuries past. Indeed, his sequel would have had many flashbacks to the 19th century, with the Jack the Ripper slayings. Though his Candyman sequel would go unproduced, he would follow up the original movie with a proper period piece. “So here’s the punchline of your article: I did make Candyman II – it’s called Immortal Beloved.”

As mentioned, the Candyman films eventually continued on with Bill Condon’s second entry. However, the franchise would meet a premature death with the poorly received third film, 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead. After its dismal reception, the series effectively died, with the rights to the series becoming tangled up amongst various parties.



”’Sweets to the sweet,’ it read. She was familiar with the quote, but not with its source. Was it a profession of love? If so, it was an odd location for such an avowal.”

Eventually, some years later, Rose came around to the idea of making a more direct sequel to his initial installment. “What was wrong with the first sequel, and what was certainly wrong with my idea for the sequel – which was just another film altogether that might be worth making one day, who knows? – but what really should have happened, [the sequel] should have just started the next day. And should have just carried on. It should’ve just been a real sequel, and Virginia should have come back as a ghost.” The Bride of Candyman, essentially? “I have no idea why nobody ever wants to bring her back.

“The whole point of [the original movie] was not to make Virginia a Final Girl, but to make her a monster. The was the point of the [unmade] sequel, too – to make the protagonist into the monster at the end. Because I wanted to have a female bogeyman. And I sort of achieved it with the end of Candyman. But the fundamental point of the sequel was to make a female bogeyman. So if a sequel had been made at that time, it should have had Virginia, and Tony could have come back, too. Some combination with those two would have worked. But it could have been a little campy, because…’Are they having a romance?’ Ghosts having love affairs. It just suddenly starts to sound like a Tim Burton film, doesn’t it?

“But I had various plans and ideas. I spoke to Tony about it a few times, I spoke to Clive about it a few times. And we could never get any straight answers from any of the rights holders. People would always say ‘Yeah, maybe I’m sorta kind of somewhat interested.’ They didn’t want to know. It was a weird thing. It was like…I’ve always felt a little bit [like] they took it away back in 1992. No one ever cared at all what I thought about any of it since then. With the most recent iteration – I had an idea to do it. I called up Clive, and he got interested. ‘Yeah, all right.’ It had become clear that the rights holders had become MGM. So we went and approached them, and this was … before Get Out came out. And they said ‘Oh, no. We’re developing this with Jordan Peele.’ And that’s where it went.”

“Something glistened among the folds of the uppermost blanket. She bent down to look more closely and found there a handful of sweets – chocolates and caramels – wrapped in bright paper. And littered among them, neither so attractive nor so sweet, a dozen razor-blades. There was blood on several.”

“Although I didn’t know who Jordan was at that point, because I hadn’t seen Get Out, nevertheless it sounded to me like a really, really good idea. And when I heard the basis of the idea was to take the story of the baby [Anthony, from the first film] – it’s a good idea. And I was especially pleased to see Vanessa Williams [in the trailer], who has not aged a day!

“So I think it’s actually a really good perspective. And it’s really good, in a way. [The original film] was much more controversial in terms of its racial politics when it came out. There were a lot of people who were quite against the movie, [saying that it] was promoting the old trope of “the black man and the blonde”. I’m sure the people who said that hadn’t seen it, because he’s lynched for that in the first place. That’s the wrong that needs to be righted. I always thought the people who thought that actually hadn’t seen the film. But on the other hand, that’s not my perspective. And if people had that perspective, and that bothers them, then that’s possibly something I couldn’t see at the time. Now that Jordan’s redone it with Nia DaCosta, I think it kind of removes that [issue] in a weird way. Or it changes the narrative of what it was. So to [approach the story] from a different perspective – to take it from Anne-Marie’s perspective, and her child’s perspective, I think is a really cool idea. I haven’t read the script, so I can’t tell you how it plays out. But I do know that much about it. [And] I do love that the new Candyman is about gentrification, because it’s the blight of the modern world.

“I think it’s a much, much better idea than [the previous sequels]. And it’s very, very, very definitely a sequel. It’s a direct follow-on. I’m very pro-[the new film]. I think the take on it is clever. I think that Nia is going to do something really different and interesting with it. And I’m really glad that there’s a feminine perspective in there, too. That was also one of the things I was trying very hard to do [with the original film]. The original is very much from a feminine perspective. Tony was in the movie for five minutes, and the rest of the time it’s Virginia.”

And what are his thoughts on the reports that Helen Lyle will be reappearing in the new film, albeit played this time around by another actress? “I haven’t spoken to Virginia, but it’s possible that she turned them down.” Nevertheless, it’s possible we may yet see the “Bride of Candyman”.



“His deeds were on a hundred walls and ten thousand lips, and should he be doubted again his congregation could summon him with sweetness.”

With the trailer having been released to a largely positive reception, the upcoming reboot is poised to be a considerable success when it’s released this upcoming June. Should this resuscitate the franchise and allow for more installments, would Rose be interested in revisiting his Bride of Candyman sequel idea down the road should the opportunity arise? “I don’t see why, if this new film is a hit – it’s definitely a really fun, legitimate, interesting way to do a sequel – the next one could be the one that I’ve always thought really should’ve been made, which picked up the next day afterwards in 1993. Because you could just make that film. Let me tell you – we didn’t shoot in the real Cabrini-Green for more than two days. Most of it’s a set. The fact that it no longer exists is kind of neither here nor there.”

And what of his original version of the sequel? Had he gotten to make the film that he’d initially planned to, would he have been interested in continuing on with making the Candyman franchise more of an anthology series that adapted various Clive Barker tales? “That was my idea! I wanted to expand the idea of what could be considered a sequel. Here’s the problem with the horror sequel – once you know who the fuckin’ bogeyman is, he comes on and starts killing more people, or starts telling jokes. Because that’s what happened to Freddy. And that’s it. There’s no other way to go. That’s just how it goes.

“So where do you go from there? Do you just have a bigger and bigger body count? And we all know what that does. It stops being effective at all. A horror movie has to operate on dread. And dread has to be about the fear of something real. And to me, the thing that was at the heart of Candyman that was real was something that was, certainly in the early 90s, a fear – the idea that cities had places that you just couldn’t go. Because they were ‘too dangerous’, and there was something there that was almost supernaturally dangerous and freaky [about them]. And that idea was fundamentally racist. That was at the heart of Candyman. And I think that hit a nerve. I think that was true. And I wanted to do the same thing with the sequel. I wanted to basically do a woman’s fear of the city, which is different from a man’s. I didn’t want to do it in the sort of Dario Argento, ‘How cute, here’s a girl in a bikini facing a knife’ [sort of way], but the real terror of the fact that there’s this sort of gender war in the world.”

Ultimately, the world never got to see Rose’s intended follow-up. All these years later, how does he feel about that? Does he wish he’d been able to make that film back in the day, or does he feel that if he had, that might have changed the trajectory of his career in perhaps unwanted ways? “I would dearly have loved to have made that film at the time. I think it’s kind of a shame that I didn’t. There was an element of…they all decided that it was all down to them. You know how it is in Hollywood. ‘There’s no good deed goes unpunished.’ Once it was a hit, everybody was all over it like a bad case of the fleas. And they all thought they knew what was right for this now. It would’ve been better if I’d made it. I think if I’d made a trilogy of them, it would’ve been great. I think there are two really solid films [there]. One could have been the weird, digressive one about Jack the Ripper, and the other could have been The Bride of Candyman. But…there’s another part of me that’s glad that I never made any of them. I mean, if you asked me to swap that for Immortal Beloved, I’d go ‘NO’.”

It’s at this point that the biggest shock of the entire conversation arrives. When this writer asks the filmmaker if he would ever consider simply releasing the original screenplay he’d written for Candyman II: The Midnight Meat Train, Rose notes that not only does he no longer have a copy of that script, but it may in fact no longer exist. “Someone probably has a copy somewhere. These things were always photocopied.”

As the conversation winds down, Mr. Rose elects to look back to his original film – the wellspring from which sequels both unmade and fully realized flow. “I’m very happy with it. Any movie that’s twenty-eight years old that people even mention anymore is a miracle.”

“She willed him to look past the flames in the hope that he might see her burning. Not so that he could save her from death – she was long past hope of that – but because she pitied him in his bewilderment and wanted to give him, though he would not have thanked her for it, something to be haunted by. That, and a story to tell.”

Very special thanks to Bernard Rose for his time and insights.

Interstitial quotes from the Clive Barker short stories “The Forbidden” and “The Midnight Meat Train”.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 

Bernard Rose


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