Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Bernard Rose
Producers: Steve Golin, Alan Poul, and Sigurjon Sighvatsson
Screenwriter: Bernard Rose
Adapted From: “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker
Date Released: October 16, 1992
Virginia Madsen as Helen Lyle
Tony Todd as Candyman
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Kai Lemmons as Bernadette Walsh
Xander Berkely as Trevor Lyle
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
In Chicago, there is an urban legend about the Candyman. Similar to Bloody Mary, he can be summoned by whispering his name five times into a mirror in a darkened bathroom. Helen and Bernadette begin researching Candyman as a part of their dissertations on urban legends. As they dig further into the legend of a black man who became a vengeful spirit after being tortured and murdered for his romance with a white woman, they discover that Candyman is all too real.
As with most movies related to Clive Barker’s work, there’s plenty of gore to spare. Candyman’s weapon of choice is an oversized hook that stands in the place of his right hand, and he certainly isn’t afraid to use it to skewer and decapitate his targets. For most of the movie, you just see the aftermath of his attacks, but eventually you see the vengeful spirit in action and it is at this point that you see the prosthetics and special effects work to its fullest.
The Grave Review
Even if you’ve never heard of Clive Barker, you probably know other movies based on his work, like the Hellraiser series. You probably also know the famous urban legends about Bloody Mary, a woman who can be summoned out of mirrors and the hook-handed man, who attempts to attack teenagers making out in their cars. So, Director Bernard Rose had both star power from Barker’s fanbase and from general pop culture going for him with Candyman, the film adaptation of the Barker short story “The Forbidden.”
Candyman (1992) is a carefully crafted movie from the ground up. It is firmly grounded, between reality and fantasy. Candyman incorporates supernatural-horror elements into the reality of the depressed slums in Chicago known as Cabrini Green. At the time of filming, it really was considered one of the most dangerous and rundown locations in Chicago.
Candyman (1992) is a terrifying villain, but his stomping grounds are frightening, for different reasons. There has been a decade-long social marginalization that oppresses the residents of the area much more than any supernatural killer. It forces the viewer to think about racism and these areas of society (people as well as physical locations) just as much as the actual supernatural threat of Candyman himself. Although Candyman is often classified as a simple slasher, it is considered much more than that. Social commentary underscores the film and anchors it firmly in the real world, where it still retains relevance 28 years later.
The film’s essential element comes from the actors and actresses themselves. The cast does a great job with their roles and their consistent performance which holds the interest of the audience throughout the film. Tony Todd (Candyman) does an exceptional job as the titular boogeyman. He has an incredible presence. He’s just as scary as a Freddy or a Jason (and just as murderous), but he’s debonair. You could almost forget about his hook or his bees—until you see them again, of course. There’s also a neat little audio trick sound editing and mixing that was done with his voice-overs. When he speaks to Helen in her mind or she’s remembering things he has said to her, it really sounds like he’s in her (and the viewers’) head. Even though I’ve seen the movie quite a few times, he has not lost his edge. I’ve even met Tony Todd before, and I still find him absolutely terrifying. The climax of the film will cement the vengeful spirit in your mind forever.
Admittedly, the plot does grow a little thin by the end of the movie. Much of the movie sees Candyman murdering animals and people and framing the protagonist, Helen. When Helen is finally admitted to a psychiatric hospital, she summons Candyman to prove that he is real. Predictably, he commits another murder. Perhaps Helen is sick of or exhausted by the pressure to prove her sanity, but surely, she would have guessed that having Candyman repeat the cycle wouldn’t have helped. It is a necessary step to move the story along, but in retrospect it doesn’t quite make sense.
The last major narrative scene also doesn’t quite hold water for me. Helen is seemingly out of the picture, and her crummy husband Trevor has moved in with a much-younger girlfriend. Trevor gets his comeuppance with the added implication that the girlfriend will be stuck in a cycle like Helen was with Candyman. However, the girlfriend merely finds Trevor’s body. She’s holding a knife with about a drop of (her own) blood on it, but nothing that could really implicate her. It’s an interesting idea, but it almost needed to be played out for just a few more seconds to see the girlfriend accidentally implicate herself to make the idea of the continuing cycle more convincing.
Still, these are very minor elements from an otherwise commendable horror film. Director Bernard Rose clearly did not rely on Barker’s reputation when making Candyman; he puts a lot of work into creating a cohesive, effective film. Although character depth, setting, and intelligent social commentary standout in this movie, there really are no major weak spots. Aside from minor setbacks, Candyman (1992) has retained such a loyal fanbase through the years and has set a standard in terms of quality horror movie.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Candyman (1992) four graves out of five graves.
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