Also known as: Clive Barker’s Candyman (complete title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bernard Rose
Written by: Bernard Rose
Based on: The Forbidden by Clive Barker
Music by: Philip Glass
Cast: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Ted Raimi, Vanessa Estelle Williams
Candyman Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Propaganda Films, 99 Minutes
“They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin to your gullet. I came for you.” – Candyman
This movie is adored by some within the horror community but it’s just never really resonated with me. The weird thing, is that I love Tony Todd in just about everything he does and this certainly is his most iconic role. However, the film just kind of falls flat and it’s hard to care about much within it but I’ll explain.
To start, the film does lure you into a dreamlike state, almost immediately, by the enchanting, interesting and unique score by Philip Glass. However, even though I like the score, I don’t specifically like it for this film, as it gives it a weird tone and for me, at least, it doesn’t quite fit.
That’s also not to say that it’s not somewhat effective, as it does put your brain in a strange place. But that strange place sort of wrecks the film. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that its effect is a good creative choice.
I have several issues with the film beyond this.
Firstly, the score doesn’t really help the pacing of the film, which moves slower than a drunk snail crossing over a maple syrup spill. In fact, it makes the film seem slower, as it tries to constantly enchant you and put you to sleep.
Secondly, it never really clearly defines who or what the monster is. You also don’t really understand what his powers are. Almost every time you see him, he appears to have the ability to teleport. Yet, at the end of the film, when he’s stuck in a giant pile of burning trash, he doesn’t teleport out, he just burns to death.
Thirdly, the ending is bizarre and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Does Virginia Madsen actually take the Candyman’s place as the monster? The ending implies such but this isn’t anything that’s ever revisited in the sequels. Granted, I haven’t seen the third one but I’m pretty sure it’s left unanswered and continuity doesn’t mean jack shit with these movies.
Fourthly, the film is just full of a lot of random, baffling shit. Like why was there a giant mountain of garbage in the first place? How did days go by and no one heard the missing baby in the next door apartment? What baby doesn’t cry every fifteen minutes? When Virginia Madsen calls for Candyman, she just gets drunk and goes to bed, why didn’t he appear instantaneously to butcher her and her friend like he did the girl in the beginning? This movie has more holes in its plot than a hobo has in his underwear.
However, there are some positives in this movie, like the performances from Madsen and Todd. They’re really good despite the picture feeling like a house of cards waiting to collapse in on itself.
Additionally, this flick does a superb job of making duality a theme throughout the picture. There’s the duality between white and black people in Chicago, the duality of there being a supernatural Candyman and a real world drug dealer who adopted the Candyman persona, there’s also the duality of the dream world and reality, as you’re never quite sure what’s actually happening at certain points.
There are a lot of layers to the movie but the problem is that none of them are as clearly stated as they need to be and they sort of get lost in the overall production being lackluster, the pace being too relaxed and the general dreamlike presentation.
The point is, this film should be more effective in regards to its social and political commentary. I don’t know if the director just didn’t want to hit people over the head with it but sometimes a story can benefit from that. The biggest issue with it is that Candyman, as a character, needed to be more defined and clearly tied to the themes of the film. At least the first sequel gives you his origin and clues you in to who he is, why he is and how this is all supposed to make sense in a clearer way.
Overall, this is a movie I’ve always wanted to like but I’m just kind of meh about it. From memory, I like the second one better but I’m going to re-watch it soon and then do a proper review of it.
Pairs well with: the other films in the series, as well as Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs.