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A children's ghost story comes to terrifying life in this gut-wrenching thriller about a graduate student whose research into modern folklore summons the spirit of the dead. Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) laughs when she interviews college freshmen about their superstitions. But when she hears about Candyman, a slave spirit with a hook hand who is said to haunt Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, she thinks she has a new twist for this thesis. Braving the gang-ridden territory to visit the site of a brutal murder, Helen arrogantly assumes Candyman can't really exist... until he appears, igniting a string of terrifying, tragic slayings. But the police don't believe in monsters, and they charge Helen with the grisly crimes. Only one person can set her free: CANDYMAN.
- "Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos" featurette
- "Clive Barker: Raising Hell" featurette
- Bernard Rose storyboard comparisons
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It is stunning visually and balanced. The horror is psychological. It is not a slasher flick.
Phillip Glass was "conned" into doing the soundtrack, and it wouldn't be the same film without it.
Candyman is a stimulus to the world of racism, the man who was sordidly wronged, to now find love in the must unsuspecting places, and tortured unquestionably for that love. His posture his ways, is faultless, those of an educated supremacy, sets out to continue an art, long gone with his brush hand. Now an artist of the cavalier of death, the merchant of prolonged love, drenched in a misty fog, smeared in rosy red salvation. The profusion and raw sterility of his morbidly hollowed, dank, dark, darkness, the darkness of all unknown places: to go on with his lamented raged mind, a mind of a lover, an artist, of as revenge seeker.
Bernard Rose's adaptation of Clive Barker's chilling novella has got be acknowledged as the greatest adaptation by a director of materials in the written form, in actual fact, dramatically improving on Barker's work.
The story begins with two anthropology post graduate students conducting a research on urban legends with primary focus on the legend of the Candyman, and disbelieving in the existence of the paranormal, and under the misconception that the Candyman legend is merely urban folklore, the two dare one another to utter his name three times before a mirror - and while her friend chickened out after saying his name twice, the heroine of the movie utters the name a final time, thereby, summoning forth Candyman who turns her life upside down in an attempt to induce her friends to abandon her and make her realize that he is the only one she has left - with the motive of winning her love as he was a black man who fell in love with a white women resembling our heroine.
This movie constitutes the finest effort by Hollywood at producing a sophisticated horror movie that keeps you wondering whether the things transpiring on screen are the deranged delusions of a person on the brink of mental illness or actual incidents occurring in real life. A fine work du art.
On the surface, "Candyman" appears to pick-up this thread. The viewer learns that Candyman was a master portrait-artist in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century. He was commissioned to capture the likeness of a landowner's young, innocent daughter. Instead, he captured her virginity. For this "crime" he was summarily covered in bees and hanged. Fast-forward to today(ish). The viewer learns that Candyman's name has become an urban-legend in Calibrini-Green (the housing-projects which were constructed on the same grounds on which he was executed). A copycat killer stalks his victims ... but is Candyman more than just a moment in history? More than just a name? Interesting premise, right?
So here is where we encounter problems. The depiction of Calibrini-Green (a very real, notoriously violent housing project in Chicago) is "white-washed." The film does not depict the overcrowding of this area: and has encountered opposition as a result (minor stuff though, right?). Now, here is the most serious offense the film commits: this film is supposed to reveal the story of Candyman ... but inevitably, it becomes the story of Helen. She usurps the narrative ... and, thus, his power. When Helen dons the hook and ultimately replaces Candyman in the mythology (as noted in the film's conclusion), her history is being compared with his. And can we really compare the history of a white woman who lives in a condo to that of a black man who was executed without a trial? Doubtful.
The film is a bit dated. It plays upon the fears white Americans had of the exodus of middle-class blacks from the "projects" (Calbrini-Green in this case) into suburban areas. It also plays the fears white Americans had upon the destruction of housing projects and, thus, the displacement of blacks during the Regan/Bush era. (The question being, "Are we safe from 'these people'?") While this could be an enlightening film, the approach is painfully flawed. The treatment of the black community is borderline insulting.
Still, the film is certainly worth a watch if you are interested in the portrayal of the "other" in film, Clive Barker's work, or if you are simply interested in the evolution of horror film.
Suggested reading: Briefel, Aviva and Sianne Ngaî. "'How Much Did You Pay for This Place?': Fear, Entitlement, and Urban Space in Bernard Rose's 'Candyman.'" Camera Obscura: A Journal of Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 37, (1996 Jan): 71-91.