Sunday, September 4, 2011

#394. Candyman (1992)

Directed By: Bernard Rose

Starring: Virginia Madsen, Xander Berkeley, Tony Todd

Tag line: "You don't have to believe... just beware"

Trivia:  Eddie Murphy was considered for the title role

Based on a short story by Clive Barker (titled “The Forbidden”), Candyman introduces yet another iconic character to the world of horror. As played by Tony Todd, Candyman is a killer with a tragic past, and a definite plan for the future. 

Grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is researching her thesis. Assisted by her friend, Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), she is studying urban legends and the effect they have on society as a whole. It's while interviewing other students that Helen learns of a legend dating back to the 19th century, that of an ominous figure known only as the Candyman. 

Candyman, the son of a slave, was allegedly murdered for falling in love with, then impregnating, a white woman. After cutting off his hand and replacing it with a hook, the angry locals smeared Candyman with honey, then watched as he was stung to death by a swarm of bees. According to the legend, anyone who repeats his name five times while staring into a mirror will bring Candyman back from the dead. 

Hoping to dig a little deeper into this legend, Helen makes a trip to an urban housing project, where many of the residents have attributed a string of recent murders to the dreaded Candyman. Yet through it all, Helen remains skeptical, and even tempts fate one evening by saying Candyman's name five times. She quickly changes her tune a few days later when she's confronted by a very tall, very real individual claiming to be Candyman (Tony Todd)! 

Candyman hits the right note on a number of different levels, starting with the casting of Tony Todd, whose imposing physical presence and unmistakable voice bring tons of charisma to the title role. Though menacing, Todd's Candyman remains a sympathetic character throughout, a man whose hatred is fueled by the injustice he suffered, and whose ultimate goal goes beyond simple revenge. 
Virginia Madsen is also impressive as the strong-willed Helen, who eventually becomes more to Candyman than a potential victim. 

In addition to its spot-on casting, Candyman features a number of strong scenes, most of which are set in the housing project, where Helen at one point interviews a single mother named Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) who also figures into Candyman's master scheme. And while most of the murders are committed off-screen (due in large part to a plot point I won't divulge here), there's more than enough blood spattered around to convince us that each one was particularly gruesome (including a kill likely to rub dog lovers the wrong way). 

Along with a number of surprising twists in its story, Candyman has a lot to say about bigotry and urban decay, and features a character who has earned his place among the genre's elite. A horror film with a conscience, Bernard Rose's Candyman stands alongside Scream, Tremors and The Sixth Sense as one of the 1990's finest horror outings.


SJHoneywell said...

In many ways, this is a forgotten horror movie. It may simply be more than the rank-and-file slasher audience wants. If I'm up for something quick and gory, I want blood, a little nudity, and some jump scares. I'm not necessarily looking for something with a social message.

And yet, Candyman delivers big on both fronts. It would be a fun slasher without all of the social elements, and would make an interesting social commentary picture without all of the gore.

DVD Infatuation said...

Steve: Thanks for the comment!

I definitely agree with you...CANDYMAN manages to entertain on a basic level, delivering plenty of scenes to satisfy die-hard horror fans, as it provides food for thought. I haven't checked out any of the sequels, but this first one is pretty damn impressive.

BTW, I enjoyed the podcast. You got further in that game towards the end than I think I would have!

Anonymous said...

One of the best of the end-of-the-eighties/start-of-the-nineties body mortification films. Great Review!

DVD Infatuation said...

@Dan: Thanks for the comment!

Made during what's considered a weaker era for horror movies, CANDYMAN definitely stands out as one of the best.

BTW, nice site! And I'm always happy to meet a fellow Pennsylvanian!

Cleveland Poet @ Bmoviebrigade said...

The film has such a spooky atmosphere, which is wonderfully accentuated by it's cinematography and score.

All around it is pretty well made. It managed to creep out/scare the audience equally with ideas and gore.

I remember thinking the sequels left much to be desired.

DVD Infatuation said...

Cleveland Poet: Thanks for stopping by!

Yeah, CANDYMAN has a lot going for it, a gore-filled movie with a conscience. As for the sequels, I guess I'm fortunate that I haven't seen any of them yet!

BTW, nice blog! Even though you weren't all that impressed with it, I think I'd still like to check out Future Force!