Helen Lyle and her friend Bernadette are both working on their masters thesis. The topic they are focusing on is the existence of urban legends. They are breaking down why they exist and what purpose they serve. In their research efforts, the ladies come across a prevalent belief in the existence of a killer called The Candyman. Bernadette and Helen initially discount the existence of The Candyman as nothing more than an urban legend invented to help people cope with the horrors of day-to-day life in the projects of Chicago. But after digging a little deeper, Helen becomes increasingly convinced that The Candyman is real.
Candyman is co-written and directed by Bernard Rose (sx tape). Rose adapted the screenplay from a Clive Barker short story. His screenplay is smartly written and brings the events of Barker’s text to life. Barker’s original story draws some fascinating parallels between The Candyman character and the danger that residents in a low-income housing project are faced with. Rose establishes himself as a directorial force to be reckoned with in Candyman. It is one of the most frightening contemporary horror films ever. There are grown adults that are still afraid to say Candyman into the mirror five times. And that is because Rose’s film terrified them as children. He makes the story of Candyman feel quite real.
With a great deal of control over his product, Rose shows an expert eye for establishing an appropriate pace. The first onscreen death doesn’t occur until roughly halfway through the film. But the audience remains enthralled with Helen’s quest to uncover the truth about Candyman. There are ample jump inducing moments leading up to the point at which the killing commences. And those moment keep the viewer on edge until the killing starts.
Bernard Rose is fortunate that he was able to attract such a talented actress as Virginia Madsen (The Haunting in Connecticut). She carries the picture during the exposition phase. Madsen is a commanding presence and demands the viewer to take notice. She portrays a strong and likable female character that a lot of viewers will be able to relate to. Xander Berkley (Kick Ass) is also a great casting choice. He plays Helen’s college professor husband with perfect pitch. He is a terrific supporting character throughout the film.
There are a several instances of nudity in the film but none of them is to be taken as sexual in nature. Helen is beaten down physically and emotionally and at her wit’s end. Virginia Madsen is not being put on display as an object of sexual desire, more so than expressing her character’s vulnerability.
The body count is much lower than what viewers have come to expect after seeing the Candyman sequels. The follow up efforts to this feature boast a much larger kill count. But the number of onscreen deaths is perfectly fitting to the story at hand. And the original film is far more powerful than either of the sequels. The kill scenes that do transpire are puled off with the benefit of practical effects and appear seamless in execution. There is ample bloodshed in these scenes to more than make for any perceived lack of body count.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen Candyman but if you haven’t re-watched it in a while, it is worth revisiting. Candyman features a strong cast, smart direction, and a thought provoking screenplay. Virginia Madsen turns in an arresting performance as the lead protagonist and the film serves as an astute observation on the dangers associated with life in a housing project.
Writer(s): Cliver Barker, Bernard Rose
Stars: Virginia Madsen, Vanessa A. Williams, Xander Berkely
Studio/ Production Co: TriStar Pictures
Budget: $8 Million (Estimated)
Length: 99 Minutes