director Bernard Rose
I saw Candyman (1992) back in the day in the theater, even, I believe. I recall not thinking too much of it at the time. But I’m in reassessment mode, open-minded, especially with content available for streaming from one of my resources, this case Netflix. Of course, what precipitated this viewing was a combination of soon-to-be-removed from Netlfix (an issue that I’ve noticed some fluctuation in, meaning sometimes they come back a couple of months later). But it’s also Halloween month and horror films are horror films. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Starring Virginia Madsen, Candyman trades off of the then hot and pretty new area of “urban legend”. I don’t recall when I first head the term “urban legend” but I think it was around the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. In this case, Madsen is a graduate student working on a co-thesis with her buddy Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) and they get turned onto the local legend of Candyman, a stalker with a hook hand who was at one time a turn-of-the-century artist and African-American freeman that took up with wrong rich man’s daughter and was gruesomely killed, having his hand hacked off and then stung to death by bees.
He now hunts Cabrini-Green, the then very notorious public housing bloc on Chicago’s North Side, a nice slice of time and place that the film has to offer. Madsen is blond and white, sticking out like a sore thumb in the mostly black slum. Her buddy Bernadette is I guess a very white black woman who also sticks out.
Their research leads them to some dark truths about murders in the tough housing project, and to a low level “gang banger” who trades off the Candyman legend. Only the legend doesn’t like his legend being debunked, and when called forth (say his name five times in front of a mirror), he’s going to make sure that people still fear him as he lives on in infamy and supernatural terror.
Candyman isn’t as bad as I remember it. I can’t say what I was looking for in a horror film in 1992, but it was it at the time. Madsen and the other cast are good, especially the wily young DeJuan Guy, the tough little tyke Jake. And the use of Cabrini-Green and Chicago are interesting too (Cabrini-Green was torn down in the early part of this century). But I’d also say it’s not great yet either, just good. Which is fine.
There were a couple of sequels made, though I never did see them. And the material got its cachet in the day as the content was adapted from a Clive Barker story. It’s still of the time where Clive Barker was still the hot next big thing in horror. When did that finally end anyway?