Candyman is a 90's horror gem that features the only black serial killer in horror movie history. I'm not kidding. Can you believe that? That serial killer is the eponymous Candyman, played by the bone-chilling Tony Todd, who cemented himself in horror history with this performance. The film itself is ethereal, like a modern day fairytale or campfire story. There are times where you question Helen's (Madsen) sanity as well as your own. Is the Candyman real or has Helen snapped and murdered her friend?
Helen Lyle is a grad student working on a thesis about local folklore, particularly the Candyman, the boogeyman of the projects. Together with her friend and colleague Bernadette (Lemmons), they head to Cabrini Green, the inner city neighborhood, to investigate the myth. Helen summons the damn thing by saying his name in the mirror five times, and now her life has turned into a nightmare. Candyman comes a-calling, looking to make Helen his infernal bride. The unsettling tone coupled with the unforgettable score by Philip Glass really sell this as one of the best horror flicks of the 90's.
Clive Barker is a bit of a twisted freak. He's the brains behind Candyman and Hellraiser, so you know his nightmares aren't for the faint of heart. Candyman excels in screwing with the audience, never confirming or denying Candyman's existence. You feel hypnotized and trapped, and to this day, there is no way in hell I'm ever going to look in a mirror and say his name five times.
This is one of the more interesting and creepy horror films I have seen. The plot is very engaging for a horror film, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat and offering a pretty cool backstory for the villain. Candyman, the film's villain, is played to chilling perfection by Tony Todd, not once missing a beat in what is now an icon of the horror genre.
The film also does a good job of messing with your mind, making the audience question if the Candyman is real or a hallucination by the possibly crazed protagonist. A good little horror film that survived the downfall of the genre in the 90s.
Urban legends are modern day myths we share with each other as a warning to always check your backseat, remember to look for a hook dangling from your car door, or to never invoke the name of a vengeful spirit because he will come for you.
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman...
To say this movie scared the shit out of me is an understatement. By the time I had seen it doing dares like Bloody Mary were already ingrained in my childhood and stood as a battle of wills to separate the "men from the boys" but no one ever lost their dick. Using Clive Barker's "The Forbidden" as a frame (he was also an executive producer on the film), Bernard Rose weaves a brutally dark fairy tale set against the Chicago slums of Cabrini Green where Helen Lyle (Madsen) and her friend, Bernadette (Lemmons), are grad students working on a thesis about urban legends; specifically Candyman. The more Helen digs, she starts to become obsessed with finding out if Candyman is real or if terrible deeds (such as a young mentally disabled boy being mutilated in a disgusting, decrepit bathroom) are being committed in his name. After calling his name in a mirror, Helen's doubts about his existence force Candyman (the legend that is Tony Todd) into the light where he makes a devil's bargain with her for the life of a baby.
This film has endured not just because it's an outstanding film with a hypnotic score by Philip Glass. It is also a landmark in how it has been embraced by the African-American community and horror lovers alike. It made Tony Todd a household name. It has been resurrected and brought back to the big screen by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta which says something about how revered it is. There is stark social commentary, also present in the source material, about marginalized people and how society treats them. It's also about sticking your nose where it doesn't belong because you could kick a hornet's (or bees in Helen's case) nest that'll fuck you up. It shows what happens when stories from the past are turned into terrifying legends that take a life of their own and continue to influence the present long after the characters have passed.
Say his name...if you dare.