While I’m a lifelong horror fan, somehow I’ve never seen Candyman. It’s understandable to have this blindspot; the original film came out when I was still in elementary school and the name Candyman doesn’t just hold as much street cred as names like Jason, Freddy or Leatherface. But in eager anticipation of the horror film’s next chapter, I made it a priority to seek out the 1992 Candyman. Let’s just say I was entertained, but not impressed.
When a smart, scholarly white woman, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) decides to study urban legends, she turns her curiosity to Candyman. The locals say if you say his name 5 times he’ll appear, hook hand and all and kill you. But she’s too intelligent to really believe in all that. Until she dives a bit deeper, investigating the scene of one of his supposed murders and discovers a rabbit hole she can’t climb out of. Worse, she seems to be going crazy and people believe she’s murdered an innocent baby.
There is so much potential to this story, but I feel like this movie doesn’t quite make the mark. There are these intriguing ideas of how urban legends spring from truth then morph and spread. We understand how that gives them power, how Candyman feeds on that power. But these ideas don’t really come to fruition and by the story’s end we’re left wanting more.
Director Bernard Rose’s vision for Candyman feels limited at best. He takes a black urban legend and sticks a white lady in the middle of it. Admittedly, it puts her in her unfamiliar territory, a disadvantage. But I feel as though Rose is disadvantaged as well. Afican American urban legends and horror born out of generations of slavery and racism dont feel authentic told out of the mouths of a European white man.
Something in the 90s gave movies the green light to be overly sexual about everything. Helen’s husband having an affair with a student is one layer. Candyman’s abduction of Hellen is a whole different one, and honestly it’s intriguing, feels bolder and I welcome it. But the needless boob shots, especially the ones when Helen is covered in blood feel needless and intrusive. We get it, it’s the 90s and movie directors used women as objects. This makes me look forward to what Nia DeCosta can bring to the table in her film.
As an individual film, the 1992 Candyman is entertaining enough. I got very invested, wondering what would happen next, enjoyed the blood and horror and very much enjoyed the very 90s jump scares. I look forward to DaCosta’s take in this very intriguing horror story/ urban legend.
“The pain, I can assure you, will be exquisite. As for our deaths, there is nothing to fear. Our names will be written on a thousand walls. Our crimes told and retold by our faithful believers. We shall die together in front of their very eyes and give them something to be haunted by. Come with me and be immortal.”