Still affective over 20 years later, CANDYMAN manages to balance bloody gore with true atmospheric horror and certainly makes you think twice about the urban legends you’ve heard as a child.
Based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker (HELLRAISER), this inner-city horror story follows University of Illinois graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) who gets much more than she bargained for while working on her Thesis about urban myths and legends.
Helen is drawn into one in particular about a hooked madman (Tony Todd) who is said to return to enact bloody vengeance on anyone who says his name (“Candyman”) five times into a mirror. Her quest leads her to the Cabrini-Green Projects where it is said he has claimed a number of victims and still haunts its decrepit and dying walls.
Helen can’t resist challenging the legend and after she speaks his name, she is soon pursued by the Candyman, but he doesn’t simply want to kill her, he wants her to be his victim and die in a most horrific way as to keep his myth alive.
It may sound like your run of the mill supernatural horror film, but stylishly written and directed by Bernard Rose, it is anything but. Rose imbues the film with a palpable sense of dread that grips you from the eerie opening credits to the final moments of the film.
The story is given time to develop and the characters are treated with intelligence. It’s easy to see how Helen is sucked into the mystery and wants she’s become a pawn in Candyman’s game, how utterly impossible it is to escape.
Tony Todd is quite a presence as the betrayed and tortured slave who would return as the titular madman. He doesn’t need to run or chase his victims, his charm and mellifluous voice soothes them into complacency and he let’s his hook take care of business.
I would be remiss not to mention Philip Glass’ haunting score for the film. Like John Carpenter’s score for HALLOWEEN it’s simplistic in construction but at the same time packs a wallop. The music alone creates unease and it’s a major reason why that sense of despair is held so long. There’s always a sense that something is looking over your shoulder.
Not quite as iconic as Freddy, Jason and Leatherface, Candyman is a worthy horror legend and adds a dose of maturity to the otherwise teenage-based films of the genre. I can’t recommend CANDYMAN enough.