Available on Blu-Ray Mon 29th October
This atmospheric adaptation of the Clive Barker short story The Forbidden follows graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) as she is told the tale of the Candyman whilst working on a thesis on urban legends. She learns that the Candyman is supposedly the vengeful spirit of a lynched black artist who haunts the nearby deprived Cabrini-Green housing project and can be summoned by saying his name five times in a mirror. Intrigued, Helen begins investigating the legend by entering the bowels of Cabrini-Green, only to find that the Candyman may be more than just a legend…
Rose makes the film stand out from the standard slasher fodder most familiar to audiences at the time by juxtaposing the seemingly-comfortable university life with the poverty-stricken housing project where Helen comes across continual reminders of Candyman’s existence, the most notable of which being a makeshift shrine consisting of offerings of sweets containing razor blades.
Rose also provides Candyman’s sporadic appearances with a dreamlike quality that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, further casting doubt on whether the Candyman is responsible for subsequent murders or whether the killer is Helen herself, who has become increasingly obsessed with the legend.
Madsen gives an accomplished performance as Helen, convincingly portraying her initial confidence as bordering on arrogance, dragging her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) to Cabrini-Green to investigate despite her warnings. This in turn mutates into increasing desperation and confusion as she finds herself accused of the murders that she insists are being committed by the Candyman himself.
However, it is Tony Todd who impresses the most as the titular Candyman. He creates a distinctive monster that is neither a mute Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers imitation or a manic demonic figure similar to Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger, instead providing Candyman with a seductive, hypnotic quality that makes his visceral murders all the more jarring. Whilst Todd would later reprise the role in two sequels, it is his performance in this first film that makes the greatest impression, leaving the recently-announced remake to be produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out) with some big shoes (and hook) to fill.
Rose’s impressive direction and strong performances from Todd and Madsen help make Candyman a memorable and distinctive horror film that still engages and disturbs even twenty-six years after its initial release – only time will tell if the remake can match its quality.