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Candyman (1992) – DVD Review

Candyman DVD


Written by Bernard Rose based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker
Directed by Bernard Rose
Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons


  • Running audio commentary by writer/director Rose, Clive Barker, producer Alan Poul, and actors Todd, Madsen, and Lemmons
  • Bernard Rose storyboards
  • Featurette: “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos”
  • Featurette: “Clive Barker: Raising Hell”

Released by: Columbia Tristar Home Video .
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Fans should consider it.

[ad#longpost]We’ve all heard them: alligators live in the sewers, Disney was cryogenically frozen, and Pop Rocks and Coke taken at the same time will make you explode. All of these are just urban legends that get pasted around and around like a flu virus. An interesting topic for a graduate thesis, at least that’s what Helen Lyle (Madsen) and Bernadette Walsh (Lemmons) thought. This paper is all she concentrates on, since Lyle’s husband, the professor (Berkeley), seems to pay attention to cute co-eds in tight jeans. While doing their research they hear about a new legend: Candyman (Todd).

Once a painter of great beauty, he was transformed by hatred into an immortal personage of fear and murder. With a sharp hook for a hand and a powerful influence over the mind, he is rumored to have killed several residents in the infamous Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago. She finds that it’s just a gang leader using the Candyman legend to bolster his power. Nothing to it. Well, not quite. Helen will discover that you don’t have to believe in legends for them to be real and quite deadly. So get in front of that mirror, have some sweets for the sweet, and prepare for the Candyman.

I have viewed and reviewed some pretty bad horror movies for this site. Finally, I get a movie that is made with some intelligence and style. Take, for example, Candyman’s creation. Unlike most horror movie monsters–that are created through events that are so contrived and sadistic that they cross over into ridiculousness–Candyman’s “rebirth” is brutal but unfortunately is grounded in the reality of American racial violence. Anyone who has seen pictures of lynching or other atrocities against blacks understands that what happened is all too real.

Virginia Madsen in Candyman

Candyman doesn’t become a mad revenger in the vein of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. He takes the power and fear of his killers and uses it to become an immortal legend. As some vampires and transhumanists will tell you, living forever is the best revenge. By inhabiting Cabrini Green, he has a fertile field of fear to manifest in. Because the project is outside of the mainstream, Candyman can command the respect and fear he needs. Another nice touch is the appearances of Candyman only take up a small amount of screen time. Like an actual urban legend, you only hear about him, seeing his effect in graffiti and the people who live in his power.

When Helen confronts and gets the gang leader posing as Candyman arrested is when the real Candyman appears in a scene reminiscent of Dracula‘s first appearance to Jonathan Harker. He walks towards her full of power and nobility that befits a denizen of dreams and nightmares. Being an educated artist, he can evoke terror, tenderness, and even sympathy. I can imagine an audience’s reaction to his call for Helen to “be my victim”. But that really shows how much Rose understands about horror. The victim is just as important as the killer. Would anyone know Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly among the thousands of whores in Victorian London if not for their encounter with Jack the Ripper?

The movie avoided overdoing the portrayal of the problems of blacks in the inner city and making it the center of the film. Still, I wonder if some more could have been done with it, maybe showing how the actions of Candyman is the ultimate in black-on-black crime. There are some problems as well, like when a gang leader beats up someone–why would he do that since it could only bring unwanted attention, specifically by the police, down on him? And why would anyone–anyone–touch a murder weapon? That is the surest way of getting yourself falsely accused. And why was the woodpile for a bonfire still there after Helen’s month long stay in the mental hospital? Admittedly, there aren’t huge problems, but they’re still annoying.

Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd from Candyman
Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd share a 'moment' from Candyman

Tony Todd is justly famous for creating this role. His body movement evokes the character’s dominance just as much as his lulling voice. It speaks of confidence in his invulnerable state as well as his knowledge that people will surrender to his deadly charms. The indelible mark he makes in the small amount of screen time he has testifies to the power in his performance. Virginia Madsen also does well as someone who finds her life of stupefying academia and a husband with a wandering eye so dull that she finds herself falling for Candyman’s passion and the romance of being his victim.

There are two featurettes on this disc. One, “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos,” details how the film started as a short story by Barker and goes through the concerns of the possible racial problems that could be caused by the release of the film. It’s impressive that they got nearly everybody to from the cast and crew to talk about this film. It really is interesting when you learn how the bees were wrangled or how Rose actually hypnotized Madsen to make the scenes when Candyman mesmerizes Helen as real as possible. This is one of the more informative behind the scenes featurettes I’ve seen.

The other is a quick biography of Clive Barker. This one could have been better. It’s too brief and doesn’t examine in depth the reasoning behind his books and movies. The commentary by many of the participants in the movie does cover some of the same topics as the behind the scenes featurette but does provide more information. For example, Madsen talks about with all the blood she was covered in for some scenes, the cast or crew wouldn’t touch her. She used this to emphasize Helen’s growing isolation from reality, but it still unnerved Madsen on several occasions. You can tell that the commentary was prerecorded and the participants aren’t reacting to the movie in real time. However, this allows a more thoughtful response from them, even though you lose some spontaneity.

With good extras and a good movie, Candyman is a disc you should pick up for a night’s rental. And go to Blockbuster, don’t do that whole calling Candyman’s name in the mirror five times. That’s just silly.

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