30 Day Horror Review – SLASHER FILM – Candyman (1992)

The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth. (IMDB synopsis)

I’m looking forward to this one! It’s based on the writings of Clive Barker, who also gave us the short story which inspired the Hellraiser franchise. And I love the Hellraiser fran– well, just the first two, actually. Clive Barker’s known for creating sympathetic antagonists and villains (if you can call them that), so I’ll be interested to see how that comes across in this film.

Review:

The opening credits are accompanied by a big ol’ shouty Catholic choir. Then Candyman’s voice is heard to say things like, “What’s blood if not for shedding?”. Hm. Well, I’m not a doctor, but I’m sure it has other uses.
Our main character, Helen is listening to an urban legend centred around the eponymous Candyman. He basically works like Bloody Mary – chant his name a certain number of times before a mirror, and he’ll swing by and kill you. With a hook, no less. A tad unlikely that the couple in the story, who are in their late teens if not adults, would try something like this, as stuff like this is only meant to prick the curiosity of fourteen-year-old girls at a sleepover.
Helen reports back to her husband (who has recently run a lecture on urban legends, much to her chagrin), and a fellow academic who favours the same subject. He tells her the origin of the Candyman legend, which it’s strange she didn’t already know, but he doesn’t have to cackle like that either. He explains that Candyman was the son of a slave in the 19th Century, and interested in painting. A white woman whose portrait he was commissioned to paint became pregnant by him, leading an angry mob to saw off his hand, smear him with honey and allow him to be stung to death by swarms of bees. Reminds me of the death of Emmett Till and a few other cases, albeit more creative.
As Helen continues her research, she attempts to summon Candyman and pokes around previous murder sites of his victims; in one of them, a public bathroom, she even finds a toilet filled with bees.

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This is only the start, however, as Candyman himself soon shows up to prove to her that he is real.
I almost don’t want to say anything bad about this film, seeing as Clive Barker was involved. But the film wasn’t only his project, and pobody’s nerfect anyway, so I’ll just say what I think.
The character of Helen is, I think, a little undercooked. I can tell that she’s really into her chosen subject and wants to do all the research she can, but perhaps a little too much. She’s like one of those movie reporters who’ll risk life and limb and being hook’d to death to get a story. Helen gets talking to a young boy called Jake, and a woman named Anne-Marie, who both seem a little accommodating, but then a bunch of dude show up and thwack her in the eye with a hook, so there’s that. Helen doesn’t even get a ticking-off from her husband for snooping around such a rough area on her own! But what really annoys me about Helen is her under reaction to everything. I could understand her being so transfixed by Candyman that it mutes her fear, but then in other scenes, she still doesn’t have a normal emotional reaction. Even when Helen is restrained by her hands and feet in a mental institution, screaming that Candyman is under her bed, I’m not convinced. Booooooooo.
Possibly my favourite scene is Helen’s first meeting with Candyman, an exceptionally tall guy with a long coat, a hook for a hand, a bloody emaciated torso dripping with bees, and the most amazingly deep voice ever. In fact, it’s so deep that sometimes I can’t quite pick up what he’s saying, but I do know he likes to give poetically badass speeches. All things considered, he’s a fantastic looking supernatural being, and incidentally, he bears a striking resemblance to the supernatural creature I created for my dissertation, and I wrote all that before I saw this film, I swear!
I also like the fact that Candyman is indiscriminate about who he kills (unlike the murderous mob that was responsible for his own death) – but then again, he needs belief in him to survive. This is what motivates his killings, making him a sympathetic character, which I expect from Clive Barker. It seems that he is reluctant to kill Helen at first, since he passes up several chances to do it. Instead, he goes about systematically destroying her life to encourage her to be a fellow Candywoman in death. This is something she does at the end of the film… although she can’t have become an urban legend in any meaningful way, since her husband only summoned her by accident and now can’t tell anyone on account of being dead. Oh well.
One thing I’m not sure I like or not in this Hollywood slasher film is the references to Shakespeare. One of Candyman’s sayings, “Sweets for the sweet”, comes from Hamlet, and the way he’s killed is almost certainly a reference to The Winter’s Tale. (Also, you can look up ‘scaphism’, if so inclined, for a similar execution method. Sigh… Why can’t people just be NICE to each other?)

Final Verdict:

This is a good solid effort. It has a few flaws, like Helen’s lukewarm performance, and a load of incidental characters that are jerks for no reason, but I’ve complained enough about those in previous reviews. I wish I had the time and intelligence to be able to comment on the issues of race presented in the film, but I will say this – an old friend of mine who happened to be black once complained to me that Candyman was the only Hallowe’en costume he felt he could do. That is a crying shame. We need better representation in horror films, for that reason if nothing else.

Rating:

6 2/3 jam sandwiches. (Hey, it’s my sandwich, I’ll slice it however I want!)

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