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CANDYMAN - 1992
Polygram Filmed Entertainment / Propaganda Films / TriStar Pictures
Rated: Australia: M / Finland:K-16 / France:-12 / Germany, Norway, Spain, UK: 18 / USA: R
Probably the biggest problem with a movie like this, for a horror fan (the
target audience), is that it is too derivative. Now there are fans
who say "Well of course its derivative! Its based on Urban myth!"
Don't get me wrong, the tale of looking into a mirror and saying a dead person's
name has been around for a long time (Blood Mary is one example) and exists in nearly all cultures today ranging from
North America, to England to the Philippines. CANDYMAN was a movie just waiting to happen. And when it comes to Urban Myth, I have to admit that CANDYMAN is a lot stronger than that URBAN
LEGEND crap from 1998 (They are making a sequel to URBAN LEGEND. Can you imagine how bad that one is going to
So then what's wrong with the movie? After all, it was based on the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker, from his anthology In The Flesh. That was 1986, back when he was good (good for Horror. Now he's good for fantasy. This is not a fantasy site so...)!
It stars Virginia Madsen (DUNE, ZOMBIE HIGH, PROPHECY, THE HAUNTING) as the heroine Helen Lyle who, as a student working
on her thesis, investigates Urban myths in general and the legend of CANDYMAN in particular.
Strange little creepy things start happening as Helen pursues her detective work
in cahoots with her cohort Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons: VAMPIRE'S KISS, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).
She makes disturbing discoveries of how ancient myth not only survives,
but thrives. Unexplained murders that take place around the nearby Cabrini-Green
Projects in Chicago are attributed to The Candyman. The adults there know
and believe, the children there know and believe, but Helen and Bernadette
Things don't really start jumping until about halfway through the movie. Now understand,
I'm all for taking your time to tell a good story, BUT HALFWAY THROUGH
THE MOVIE??? Only when Helen narrowly avoids being killed by a gang
leader does CANDYMAN start getting really scary. The gang leader (Terrence
Riggins: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II) has been using the legend
of the Candyman as protection from the retribution of, those he wishes
to victimize. He walks around with a spike in one hand and the children
believe him to be THE Candyman. It is only after he beats Helen
and leaves her for dead, does she return to pick him out of a police line-up
of suspects. By this action she has dispelled the myth and fear from the
lives of the folks in the Cabrini Projects. Regardless of whatever other
hells they may have to live with, the murders committed by the fake Candyman
can now be laid to rest. Those who may see him again will attack him readily,
for they no longer believe in his otherworldly immortality.
Only now, ONLY NOW (!) do the Merry Mishaps occur! All else has been build-up
and exposition! E-Freakin' GAD!
So okay, we are now half way through the movie and it's really starting to
click. The movie comes alive thanks in no small part to the "Real" Candyman
(Tony Todd: All the CANDYMAN movies, THE CROW, FINAL DESTINATION). Now the wild and creepy stuff begins and it is well worth watching.
But wait! What about the big problem I mentioned? Why is this movie derivative?
Well, the movie DRACULA and THE MUMMY were both originally written by
Bram Stoker. Though the first movies had little to do with the books,
they both retained the main plot device, in that the murdering "Monster"
was also a tragic figure who had died a horrible death for the love of
their one true. Years, centuries, or millennia later, they are resurrected
by various means and quickly go about establishing their reputations (unstoppable
killing thing) while at the same time trying to re-capture the
love that they had lost. For both stories this was in the form of a modern
woman who crossed their path and looks enough like the old flame to pass
muster. We have seen tons of DRACULA and MUMMY movies throughout the 20th
century. All with the same angle driving the plot. We have even seen the
same plot drive African American vampires (BLACULA).
And this is what drives CANDYMAN as well. It is tired re-hashed hack work.
Written and directed by Bernard Rose (PAPERHOUSE) I found
that "Rose the Director" is way more creative than "Rose
the writer" (Bernard also plays the role of Archie Walsh in this film). I would find it hard to believe that
Bernard could not understand the more original concept of Clive Barker's
"Forbidden". Anyone who has seen PAPERHOUSE knows that this
is a guy well at ease with the surreal. Possibly the screenplay was written
in an effort to get studio money by giving the "heads" a plotline
that they could easily grasp without too much thought. Thinking takes
time and time is money. Whatever the case, CANDYMAN suffers for it as the grafting of one plot device over another is an ill
Where Bernard Rose fails as a writer he amply makes up for as a director. The world
he creates and the fears he instills in the audience are so palpable you
can almost smell the blood. Rose demonstrates a sure hand as he depicts
Helen's world rapidly and inexorably falling apart. As Helen, Virginia
Madsen has a way with her eyes. She can talk and physically express herself
all at the same time, from her bodily movements to her facial tics. We
are talking minutia here, but it rounds itself out to give her character
of Helen a real-life plausibility. Watching Madsen is fascinating and
she carries the movie very well.
Because of the failed writing, CANDYMAN has two endings. The actual one and the follow-up prologue. Both are anticlimactic.
Thanks to the good direction, great acting, and scenery so real you can almost (ugh)
taste it - Giant Zombie Kudos go to Production Designer Jane Anne Stewart,
Art Director David Lazan (TEACHING MRS. TINGLE) and Set Decorator Kathryn Peters (DEVIL IN A BLUE
DRESS). All in all it was a great team making a good movie from a mediocre script. That couldn't be easy!
3 Shriek Girls.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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has spawned two sequels,
CANDYMAN 2: Farewell To The Flesh, and CANDYMAN 3: Day
Of The Dead.
Tony Todd is the Candyman in all three.
Tony seems to have TWO Official websites
Or at the fansite
The Forbidden was the inspiration for CANDYMAN and is in the book
IN THE FLESH
by Clive Barker
Writer Clive Barker is interviewed in Stanley Wiater's DVD,