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‘…one of the smarter, more cerebral horror films on the block…’

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Polygram/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5878137d) Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen Candyman - 1992 Director: Bernard Rose Polygram USA Scene Still

Not the 2021 Jordan Peele re-imagining, yet; popping up on Netflix UK as a primer, this is the 1993 Bernard Rose version of the horror property that spawned several sequels. Peele is a hot property post his Oscar-winning Get Out, but the reaction to his Twilight Zone revamp suggested that there were limits to his mercurial rise. But Candyman is a good choice for an upgrade; set in black projects of Chicago, it’s the creation of two white creatives, Rose and original author Clive Barker, and was based on a short story called The Forbidden, originally set in Liverpool.

Instead, we’re relocated to the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago, where a spirit haunts the unfortunates who live in the dingy high-rises. Candyman has a hook for a hand and trails a path of bees; why he’s not called bee-man or hook-man isn’t clear, although there’s a brief scene in which children’s sweets are shown with razor-blades embedded inside that isn’t fully explained; is this a trap for children or Candyman? Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is an academic with an interest in urban legends, and sets out to find out, only to incur the ire of the titular monster.

Is Candyman such a monster? We’re told, in a breathless origins story that’s not shown at all, he was an innocent black man who was tortured and killed by a white man for getting his daughter pregnant. But Rose’s film firmly confirms Candyman (Tony Todd) as a baddie; all you have to do is stand in front of a mirror and say his name five times to summon his vengeful spirit. But at least he’s an original baddie; part of the allure of Rose’s vision is that most of his film takes place in daylight and in modern settings. The ghetto graffiti gives Rose’s film an unusual pop-art feel, and the choral Phillip Glass soundtrack is choice.

Helen Lyle’s discovery that her own gentrified condo was once part of the Cabrini Green ghetto is a resonant variation on the Indian burial ground cliche, and one presumes that urban betrayal is where Peele will take this material. Barker’s interest in infidelity is well explored via late plot twists, and Rose brings his usual sense of visual flair to a simple, effective chiller. But actually, it’s the underused Madsen who really excels here; she hits the right notes for a woman on the brink of insanity, and helps make Candyman one of the smarter, more cerebral horror films on the block.


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  1. Great movie, great write-up. This one is one of the few that can blend the tangible with the mystical, and both end up horrifying. The projects, graffiti, and overcast weather gave me more the creeps than the bees, but this succeeds in mood and atmosphere over exposition, I think. I will probably see the remake, but it will leave the same mark as this one. Miss you and blogging. School and being a new dad have just wiped away the freer time. It takes careful planning, but how do you make God laugh?

    • Just checked in on you earlier this week, life has a way of getting in the way of blogging! I’m writing this in a torrential Scottish rainstorm! Looking forward to the new Candyman, but the old one made the urban legend thing look easy!

  2. I remember watching this at the cinema… Didn’t have the guts to say the name 5 times into a mirror afterwards and didn’t sleep well for 2 nights. Be nice to see how it’s held up over time.

    • Yup, I’m in the same boat, no point in tempting fate. On Netflix UK right now if you fancy another look.

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