If one wanted to take a risk this Halloween, or any day for that matter, walk over to the nearest mirror and say this name five times: Candyman…Candyman…Candyman… Candy… I am not going to take the chance just in case. For it is said, that looking in the mirror, and saying his name five times, will extend an invitation to the supernatural being, who has a hook where one of his hands should be. From what is shown on screen, calling him forth, for most people, ensures a quick, brutal death.
At the start of the film, a story is being related, and shown via flashback, about a girl named Clara (Marianna Elliott). If a viewer were watching the film for the first time, and knew nothing about its content, after the opening jump scare, that viewer would likely think it was going to be a typical horror movie. Billy, played by Ted Raimi (Xena: Warrior Princess) arrives at the house where Clara is babysitting. She takes him to the bathroom, to test the theory of the Candyman legend. While Billy escapes, Clara is not as fortunate. The story is being told to Helen Lyle, a strong willed, doctoral student, portrayed by Oscar nominee, Virginia Madsen (Sideways). Helen, and her fellow student and friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), are working on their thesis, which deals with urban legends. (As an aside: If Virginia Madsen had dropped out of the project, the role of Helen would have been played by Oscar winner, Sandra Bullock (Gravity) In addition, Golden Globe winner, Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) was considered for the role of Candyman).
Helen and Bernadette drive to the Cabrini-Green Homes, a Chicago public housing project. They have gone there to investigate the Candyman’s supposed involvement in terrible acts being committed against its residents. The location is a haven for drug dealing gangs who control their turf through ruthless intimidation and murder. The film paints the dismal landscape, almost as a desolate wasteland, fraught with decay and despair. While there, Helen and Bernadette, make disturbing discoveries of how ancient myths not only survive, but thrive in seemingly hopeless situations, as a way to explain real world horror. The residents, who live in the housing project, believe in the validity of Candyman’s existence, while Helen and Bernadette, coming from the world of academia, clearly do not.
Tony Todd, completely embodies the role of Candyman; from his foreboding voice to his imposing stature at 6’5.” He appears, for the first time to Helen, not in some visceral nightmare, or while she is out walking alone in the dark of night, but instead, during the daytime, in a parking garage. He is not a silent, masked killer, like Michael Myers from the Halloween films; neither is he a wise cracking, Freddy Kruger type from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Instead, he is a highly intelligent, supernatural being, which ties into his background, which is revealed through exposition, in a scene involving Michael Culkin’s character, Professor Philip Purcell.
What could have been a dull narrative that sounded like someone was reading from a text book, is made interesting by the way BAFTA winning cinematographer, Anthony B. Richmond, (Don’t Look Now) lit Madsen, as well as by the use of sound effects that were utilized to help enhance Purcell’s story. The following is explained by Purcell to Helen: Candyman, whose real name is Daniel Robitaille, was a well educated son of a slave, who was a talented artist. Unfortunately, during the time period in which he lived, his falling in love with a Caucasian woman, led to his not only getting his hand sawed off, but to his death by lynching. The scene, seemingly eludes to the fact that Helen is the reincarnation of the woman that Candyman loved. The way it plays out, could lead a viewer to think that she can recall being present when the heinous actions took place.
As Helen delves further into her research at Cabrini-Green, she comes in contact with the leader of one of the gangs (Terrence Riggins). He dresses like Candyman; and also pretends to have a hook for a hand. He attacks Helen, knocking her unconscious. After viewing a police lineup, she identifies her assailant, and the thinking is, that the terrible deeds ascribed to Candyman will come to an end; that is not what happens. While the wannabe Candyman is incarcerated, another murder takes place. Additionally, Helen, who was interviewing a devoted, struggling, single mother (Vanessa Williams), wakes up in the woman’s apartment, in a scene that looks like it is the product of a surreal nightmare; the worst part is, that the woman’s baby is missing. Helen is arrested and considered the prime suspect, not only for the first murder, but in the disappearance, and possible killing of the child. From that point onward, Helen and the Candyman are pitted against one another. He has orchestrated the horrific events because he desires Helen to be with him. If she continues with her work, attempting to discredit his existence, he will no longer be able to invoke fear in people. He wants to not only continue to do so, but to have Helen take her own place among urban legends, to quote Todd’s character:
“Your death will be a tale to frighten children, to make lovers cling closer in their rapture. Come with me, and be immortal.”
The latter half of the film has Helen fighting to prove her innocence and sanity, not only to the police, but to her husband, Trevor (Xander Berkeley). He, however, is a philandering professor, who would welcome getting his wife out of the way, so he would no longer have to hide his affair with one of his students, Stacey (Carolyn Lowery). Will Helen triumph over Candyman in the end, or does she succumb to the realization that her situation is hopeless, and willingly give herself to him?
The atmospheric, suspense filled, and thought-provoking film was written and directed for the screen by Bernard Rose (Mr. Nice); based on Clive Barker’s story “The Forbidden,” the movie was released to theaters on October 16, 1992. The film, which is parts drama and horror, has a runtime of 99 minutes. The movie’s score, which compliments what transpires on screen, was composed by Golden Globe winner, Philip Glass (The Truman Show). Glass was reportedly dissatisfied with the finished film, considering it nothing more than a generic, Hollywood slasher story. He felt he was tricked, by Rose, into composing a score for another sort of movie; due to his anger, he refused to allow his recordings of the score to be released for almost a decade after the debut of the film.
The movie traverses the line between the myth of an urban legend and reality. Rose does an excellent job making a viewer question what has actually happened as opposed to what is taking place only in the minds of the characters. While the film does contain gore, it is used in an effective manner to help further the plot. Viewers who are in the mood for a fast paced, visceral film, are going to be disappointed. While the film is primarily slow moving, what is implied, for the most part, is a great deal more potent, than what is actually shown on screen.