CANDYMAN. (1992) DIRECTED BY BERNARD ROSE. SCREENPLAY BY BERNARD ROSE. BASED ON ‘THE FORBIDDEN,’ A SHORT STORY BY CLIVE BARKER. MUSIC BY PHILIP GLASS. STARRING VIRGINIA MADSEN, TONY TODD, XANDER BERKELEY AND KASI LEMMONS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © ‘Remove your underwear…’ ‘It was always you, Helen…’ I was confused but also intrigued by this rather strange and iconic horror film. The main thing I loved about it was that, every time something happens in the film that’s so gruesome or awful you just automatically assume that the character is having a nightmare, they’re actually not, and the awful or gruesome thing was perfectly real and did happen. It’s an extremely gory film and not, as they say, for the faint-hearted, so don’t stick the kids in front of it while you nip to Tesco for a loaf of bread, lol. Anyway, the beautiful Virginia Madsen, sister of actor Michael Madsen, plays the main character, Helen Lyle, in this supernatural slasher movie. She is a graduate student living in Chicago with her cheating and rather weedy-looking university professor husband, Trevor. Helen is studying urban legends and local folklore for her thesis, which she is co-writing with her friend Bernadette. They decide to focus their thesis on the legends surrounding the Candyman, the evil spirit of a black man called Daniel Robitaille who was born the son of a slave in the late 1800s. He was killed in horrific circumstances by white men after becoming a painter of some repute and impregnating a white woman with whom he was in love. The ghost has a hook for a hand (I know what you did last summer, by the way!) and a great big hulking chip on his shoulder. If you say his name in the mirror five times, the ghost, now known as the Candyman for some reason that’s not explained, is supposed to appear to you. No-one tells you what’s supposed to happen once he appears, but one would imagine it’s something fairly negative, as he’s a vengeful ghost and not, say, Father Christmas… Instead of revenging himself on white men, as you might imagine, so far the spectre seems to have killed mainly black people living in notoriously poor housing projects. Helen and Bernadette, armed with cameras and notebooks, head straight to Cabrini Green, one such housing project, where the Candyman is supposed to have murdered a black woman after gaining access to her apartment through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Cabrini Green is a terrifying place, even without the lurking presence of the Candyman, whose name seems to be on everyone’s lips. The apartment blocks are disgracefully neglected by whichever local authority authorised their construction. They are filthy, probably overcrowded, daubed in graffiti and faeces, patrolled by gangs of aggressive black males and the lifts don’t work. Sounds delightful, right? But Helen, our intrepid investigator, can’t seem to stay away from the bloody place, or from the mystery of the Candyman, even after she gets a terrible hiding from some of the local males who don’t take too kindly to posh ‘whites’ like Helen sniffing around their patch. Incidentally, did you see the state of those public toilets…? But Helen is personally involved now, after a meeting she’s definitely not expecting in a deserted underground car-park. (This dame just can’t stop courting trouble, right? All she needs now is to hang round the tunnel under the old disused bridge at midnight on a bloody full moon…!) Her discovery that the Candyman is all too real is just the beginning of a nightmare ride for the pretty graduate student with the lying, cheating bastard of a husband. She finds herself accused of the bloodiest, most horrific murders, murders that we know she didn’t commit. Her life changes out of all proportion, if by ‘changes’ you mean ‘fucked up beyond all recognition,’ or even FUBAR, lol. But the Candyman, a suave and decidedly sexy, sharp-dressing black ghost with a deep, delicious voice, refuses to relinquish his stranglehold on Helen. Might her resemblance to a woman in a certain portrait possibly hold the key to his obsession…? The murders are gory and grim and the special effects excellent, but you might not sleep easy for a while after viewing this supernatural slasher flick, especially if, like me, you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom…! I loved the social commentary in the film. You could make a whole other film just about Cabrini Green and the people who live there, or in other forgotten housing projects like it. I especially liked the character of Anne-Marie McCoy, the young black single mum who works to take care of her baby, Anthony, whom she obviously adores. It’s not all drugs and gangs, she tells Helen defensively. It’s not all like you whites read in the newspapers. Some good decent folks live here too. That is undoubtedly true. It must be very hard to live there as a woman on her own, trying to raise a little boy who, as he’s growing up, is going to see crime and gang activity everywhere he looks. That’s the real horror of CANDYMAN, if you ask me, but, hey, there’s a pretty darned good murderous ghost in the mix too, so enjoy your film. There are two sequels: CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999). And watch out for the 2021 direct sequel, CANDYMAN, in your local cinema right about now. Now, all together: Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! I just can’t say it a fifth time, lol. Too scared the legend might be true…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: