“Candyman” centers on a hook- handed villain on the backdrop of a gentrified Chicago.
Every month, Tulsa’s Circle Cinema shows a classic action or horror movie late at night as for its “Graveyard Shift” program. This month “Candyman” by Bernard Rose was shown, a 1992 adaption of Clive Barker’s short story “The Forgiven.”
The film centers around Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a Chicago graduate student doing research on urban legends for her thesis. Her project begins to focus around the Candyman legend, a supernatural man with a hook for a hand that has supposedly killed over 20 people. This eventually leads her to the Cabrini-Green public housing development, where many of the murders have taken place.
The film uses the poverty and crime of this real, predominantly-black neighborhood of Chicago as its setting. The injustices present in Cabrini-Green were present in real life, with gang activities incredibly common, and eventually the buildings were demolished. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact statement, if any, Rose tries to make with his film on the failures of public housing. Several characters point out the injustice present, but the narrative doesn’t seem to offer any resolution or further development of these ideas. Perhaps the injustice is just a backdrop to Rose.
Tony Todd delivers a haunting performance as the Candyman himself. He ethereally stalks Helen with an echoing voice while being seemingly omnipresent. His monologues are enthralling and poetic depictions of himself. He muses on the nature of urban legends as his mutilated and infested body is slowly shown in more detail. Todd was even stung by bees used for the film 23 times during shooting.
The film is consistently horrifying, due in large part to its frequent use of jumpscares. A few of these scares feel a bit forced, but most come as a satisfying release of tension in the suspenseful scenes. The frequent violence and gore also create several dramatic reactions in the audience, particularly when the Candyman’s iconic hook is used. The dilapidated housing project becomes a horrifying setting as the characters explore its murky forgotten depths.
It’s hard to pin down the brilliance of “Candyman” to any single aspect. Once the film reaches its most interesting act, its allure is the perfection of horror that it has attained. Bone-chilling acting, beautiful camerawork, eerie set design and a haunting score by Phillip Glass all combine to create an amazing atmosphere representative of the best horror has to offer. All this with the character of Candyman and his devilish torment of Helen give the film enough uniqueness to be a true contemporary classic of horror.
A remake of “Candyman” is currently being created by Jordan Peele, the critically acclaimed director of “Get Out” and “Us.” Peele intends to focus this version of the story on the gentrification that has been undergone in areas like Cabrini-Green. Considering the powerful social messages of his other films, Peele’s version of “Candyman” will hopefully be able to develop the themes sadly missed by this one.
The next “Graveyard Shift” movie will be a 4K restoration of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead,” shown on Nov. 22 and 23.