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 is a well-executed film that 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 hard at work researching her thesis paper. Assisted by her friend, Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), Helen is studying urban legends, and the effect they have on society. While interviewing other students, Helen learns of a legendary figure known only as the Candyman. Dating back to the 19th century, Candyman (Tony Todd), the son of a slave, was allegedly murdered for falling in love with, then impregnating, a white woman. After having his hand cut off and replaced by a hook, Candyman was smeared with honey, then stung to death by a swarm of bees. According to the legend, anyone who repeats Candyman's name five times while peering into a mirror will bring Candyman back from the dead, costing whoever it was that uttered his name their life. Hoping to dig deeper into this legend, Helen makes a trip to a crime-ridden 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, even going so far at to tempt fate one evening by saying Candyman's name five times. However, she quickly changes her tune a few days later when she's confronted by a very big, very real individual claiming to be Candyman.
Candyman succeeds on a number of levels. First and foremost, there's Tony Todd, whose huge physical presence and unmistakable voice bring plenty of charisma to the title role. Though menacing, Todd's Candyman remains a sympathetic character, a man whose hatred is fueled by injustice, and whose ultimate goal goes beyond simple revenge. Virginia Madsen is also impressive, playing a strong-willed woman who becomes much more to Candyman than a potential victim. There are several strong scenes that take place in the housing project, where Helen interviews a single mother named Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) who also figures prominently in Candyman's master scheme, and though 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 they must have been particularly gruesome (including one dog lovers will most likely want to be warned about).
Weaving a story with a number of surprising twists, Candyman has a lot to say about society, race, and urban decay. A horror film with a conscience, Candyman is a character, and a movie, that's earned its place among the elite of the genre.