Episode 48: Candyman (1992) HALLORE’EWIND SERIES

Film chosen and introduced by Patrick

I hear you’re looking for Candyman… bitch.

So was I, back in 1997, drawn into the urban legend along with my other impressionable classmates… we were 11 years old. Little Jake (DeJaun Guy) in the film was smarter than us, he knew to steer clear of the Candyman as much as possible. I wish we’d been like Jake – he wouldn’t die first in a horror film, but we would, as we lined the boys toilets at Sacred Heart Primary school and in unison, started chanting his name to the mirror before us…

Candyman…

Candyman…

Candyman…

Candyman…

Candyma’… ARGHHHHHHHH!!!! Laughter and nervous giggling ensued as we raced back to our classroom, our groins and gullets intact, for now.

Even though I begged my parents to watch it, as it was the talk of the school playground that week and the film that couldn’t be missed for Hallowe’en, I recently questioned why Mother dearest allowed me to watch this film at such a young age. But she was confident I was mature enough to watch it, as long as I was with her and Father dearest. I owe them a lot for my film education in my youth, predominantly family fayre, Disney and musicals (which Devlin is a big fan of also *snigger*) but every now and then they’d let me watch something adult, something exciting, something that would terrorise the shit out of me and have a lasting effect for the rest of my life… Candyman. 

I don’t know if I truly understood what an ‘icon’ was back then, but I certainly had a list of characters I adored, heroes forever more from the films I liked. Robin Hood, Karate Kid, Marty McFly, Maria Von Trapp (trust me the list goes on) but I also recognised a good bad guy, Sheriff of Nottingham being my particular favourite. Yet, no one struck fear in my heart like Candyman. There are bad guys and then there’s Candyman. That deep voice, his stature, the hook, the ribs, the bees… THE BEES!! They haunted me for years. 

I’ll never forgive the Final Destination series for wasting Tony Todd with pitiful screentime. 

Amongst the terror, I don’t truly believe I remembered the plot a great deal. I suppose urban legends are quite simplistic in achieving their goals – a short, snappy story about some motherfucker coming to kill you in a certain way. So why are we so curious about them? Well the character of Helen (Virginia Madsen) answers that in many ways, and what really ‘hooked’ me as an adult revisiting the film and engaging in another thoroughly enjoyable dissection with the sausage factory (sorry, the other contributors to the Rewind Movie Podcast [sorry again, my friends]) was how the idea of Candyman took her. 

Whether she needed him as a way to wreak revenge on an adulterous husband, or perhaps Candyman needed Helen to further his legacy and be with the woman he once loved, the seduction of their relationship really struck me. It’s presented as a gothic romance. Look at the way Helen is lit to tell you all you need to know about her state of succumbing to Candyman and allow yourself to get swept up in the beauty and sorrow of the film. It’s not a slasher, although I can see why Gali thought he remembered it as such, because there are some really graphic bloody sections (a mother screaming to high heaven at an empty, bloody cot, bereft of her baby is a truly chilling scene) but beneath the horror lies themes of dreams versus reality, a psychological manifestation or breakdown, or maybe Candyman is real after all. Just because you cannot see him, doesn’t mean he isn’t, after all.

What was fascinating to uncover too, was the socio-political element to the film, namely the film’s setting in the Chicago neighbourhood of Cabrini-Green. The imposing tower block in the film is a character unto itself and for the first 45 minutes, creates the atmosphere and the fear surrounding what could be. What truly happened here? What IS happening here amidst American society that is alienating a community?

Adding to the ominous feel of the urban legend is the ethereal and deceptively simple score by Philip Glass that has this strange melodic playfulness, akin to a bedtime story and fantasy. It actually reminded me of certain notes in John Williams’s score for ‘Hook’, with similar storytelling motif about a man with a Hook for a hand, but here its faux-sweetness becomes very threatening. Some of the striking imagery, particularly the walls of bees, will stay with you. As Matt says, nothing beats practical, in-camera imagery for an everlasting, wowing effect and within Candyman are some fine examples. 

I’m glad that my pick finished our ‘Hallore’ewind’ short series for you all and want to thank Devlin for being such a horror nerd that of course we all jumped on the idea of celebrating his favourite season to relive some of our favourite Halloween/horror films. Candyman is certainly something I now fully intend to revisit every Hallowe’en for my Tony Todd fix, and to feel that same fear I experienced as an 11-year-old coursing through me time and time again. 

Helen…

Helen…

Helen…

Helen…

Hele’… Arghhhh, no I can’t! Can you?

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