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Black October 16: Candyman

October 16, 2009

Here we are at the halfway point of my tour through my horror DVD collection, and we get to one of my top 10 horror films: Candyman. Clive Barker’s urban hellstorm was brought to life in 1992 by director Bernard Rose, who saw the bleak despair of the story and saw how to use Chicago as a key character.

The movie’s plot is fairly straightforward. Virginia Madsen plays Helen, a graduate student working on a study of urban legends. She learns that the residents of a low-income housing project called Cabrini Green believe in a mythical figure called Candyman: Say his name five times while looking in a mirror, and he will appear to you. Candyman is said to haunt the projects, killing at random, stealing babies, striking fear.

Helen doesn’t believe, but a series of brutal events and the sudden destruction of her way of life change her outlook. And then Candyman himself appears, and Tony Todd brings to the screen a perfect example of how evil can wear a cloak of charisma. “I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom …”

Rose, as I said, uses Chicago brilliantly, shooting in a clean, cold winter light. The city’s desperate projects, upscale condos and trendy bistros become as crucial to the story as the characters. A hidden chamber in Cabrini Green is presented in all its squalid, horrible darkness, and helps Helen understand a link between key buildings in the movie, a link that sees the movie’s plot take a hard swerve into what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen-next territory.

I loved Candyman from Day 1, precisely because of that quality. It was, and is, like nothing else, and there was no way to predict what would happen next. It still takes me by surprise when I watch it every couple of years. It’s the kind of horror movie that transcends its genre and becomes a classic film, bloody hook and all.

There are sequels. I recommend you avoid those.

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One comment

  1. ‘Candyman’ was the first horror film I saw, aged about 10. A friend’s parents owned a video rental place and they lived above it, I stayed over there one night for a sleepover and we watched ‘Candyman’. I think it started my life long dislike of being scared…



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