Candyman (1992)

MAY 11, 2008


I saw Candyman once, at a sleepover, when I was like 13. The only thing I vividly remembered was that a certain female cast member was very appealing to my 13 year old brain (that'd be Stacey, the student Virginia Madsen's husband hooks up with). Strangely, I got inspired to revisit it while playing GTAIV, in which you have to take out a drug dealer who lives in the projects. Something about the building reminded me of the one in Candyman, so I opened the DVD I bought ages ago (this is nothing new, one of the very first DVDs I ever bought is still in shrinkwrap) and made it my movie for the day. And sure enough, the building in the game IS very similar to the Cabrini Green housing development that Virginia Madsen and her friend walk around in the film’s first act. I love how my memory works.


The movie itself is about as good as I remember - I wish I could recall why I didn't watch it more often, though I suspect it was because it was/is somewhat slower than the other things I was watching at the time and didn't feel encouraged to revisit it as often as my usual high body count slashers. One thing that most certainly DIDN’T bother me as a kid was Candyman’s dialogue, which I now liken to the bad gothic poetry I would read a few years later in my high school newspaper. Stuff like “What is blood if not for shedding?” sounds cool to a kid, but now I find it incredibly corny. The film works best when Candyman is just a silent figure, graphically killing folks for no real reason and blaming it on Madsen (the part with the shrink kills me – he wants Madsen to escape, but does he need to commit another murder that will be pinned on her in the process?).

Also, any dialogue (not just Candyman’s) drowns out the incredible score by Phillip Glass, which is a shame. The score is up there with Halloween and Exorcist as instantly identifiable in the horror genre, and I even let the credits run to hear it one last time. I know Glass gets a lot of shit for his atonal nonsense, but his work here is quite melodic and wonderful, and the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective without it.

I also love how the movie used medicine cabinets as a way of explaining how Candyman got in and out of people’s homes. Horror movies have used the opening/closing of a bathroom mirror as a scare device for decades; it’s about time someone actually took the time to make the damn things part of the plot. Kudos to Bernard Rose (what the hell ever happened to him, anyway?*) and Clive Barker for this invention.

The extras are nice – and actually more plentiful than the disc would have you believe. Despite being listed as “Commentary with Bernard Rose”, it actually has just about everyone else on the track, including Barker and Todd. Xander Berkeley is the only principal who is absent. Sadly, they are recorded separately, and they keep reminding us who is who (ironic, since is the only track in history with 6 completely distinctive voices), but it’s still a good listen. Rose in particular is good to listen to, in addition to saying the exact same thing I’ve always said when people say they don’t like horror movies because they are too scary (“Would you dislike a comedy for being too funny?”), he also trashes PG-13 horror near the end, and this was recorded when PG-13 horror films were the exception, not the rule. A prophet! Another thing he reveals is that Sandra Bullock was up for Madsen’s role, which is an amusing thing to think about. There’s also a nice retrospective piece (Todd’s simple description of Candyman 3 makes the whole thing worth watching) and an interview with Clive where he discusses his career. Good stuff.

And no, I haven’t read the short story. Other than Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions, I have never read any of the original Barker stories that the films have come from (or any other Barker material, for that matter). I keep meaning to check them out, but I read very rarely these days (I used to get all my reading done on my subway/bus commute in Boston; in LA I drive to work). Someday....

Finally, the best thing about the movie? Ted Raimi cast as a “town bad boy” in one of the flashback scenes. Ted is possibly the least threatening guy ever born, so this is just hilarious to me.

What say you?

*He went on to make some softcore nonsense, as well as the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. Which is odd, because the director of Candyman 2 went on to make the film version of Chicago. Candyman films – the gateway to Oscar bait music related cinema**!

**Except for part 3. The director of that movie went on to write Wrong Turn 2. Which is, as far as I’m concerned, a better deal.


  1. You know these "pre-review" comments are almost as funny as the friggin' reviews. And more succinct. lol.

  2. heard how good this movie was. i saw it when it first came out on video with my friend mike. when the little kid tells viginia madsen that he can't tell her anything "'cause the candyman'll get me," mike shouted out "what, sammy davis jr.'s gonna get you!" thus ended any serious appreciation of this movie.

  3. This movie scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Interesting thing about the medicine cabinets... That was a real thing in Cabrini Green. People would break into other apartments through the medicine cabinets, so residents would barricade their bathroom doors from the inside before going to bed. Terrifying, right? The cops only started caring when a woman called 911 saying, "they're coming through the bathroom wall!" and they ignored her, thinking she was a nutcase, and the intruders killed her. In the movie, they hold up a newspaper article referencing the issue, and that was a real article written by my teacher who told us the whole story. I can't drive by Cabrini without thinking about it. Though they're tearing it down to build hoity condos now.

    I totally agree about Candyman's angsty teenage poetry. Ha!

  4. Candyman terrified me as a kid, especially the scene in the car park when we hear Candyman calling Helen's name (that voice creeped me right out) and when she turns around he's standing pretty far away but when he speaks to her (something about her doubting him so he felt compelled to come pay her a visit) it sounds as though he's really close. Before he made Candyman Bernard Rose directed 'Paperhouse', based on the novel Marianne Dreams and if you haven't seen this I would highly recommend it for viewing/reviewing for your site. I seen it when I was a kid and it was one of those films that just stays with you (even though I'd only seen it once and was very young at the time), I managed to track it down on DVD around 15 years after that first solitary viewing and it still holds up. I don't want to say too much about it as I think it's best going into films like Paperhouse without much knowledge and just letting it unfold but if you've not seen it you should definatley check it out.

  5. This movie is horror atmosphere for me. I'd put it in my top ten horror films of all time, and it's probably the best of the 90's. Love it.

    The second films is decent too, but the third is crap.

  6. Definitely on the better end of Barker's adaptations.. I'm going to utter some horror blasphemy here, but out of all of his film adaptations my personal favorites are Nightbreed and Midnight Meat Train. After seeing 'Hellraiser: Revelations' I think the entire franchise may be permanently tainted for me, but Candyman.. One of his best. I'd like to see Tony Todd a little more often though.


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