For all the Freddie Krugers, Michael Myers and Ghostfaces, few have such an iconic horror trope as the Candyman. The idea that once you have watched this movie, you could then go up to your bathroom and say his name five times in the mirror, or more likely not, is too tempting and more importantly unique that it makes Candyman stand-out amongst its horror contemporaries. However, that is not the only reason it is such an important horror movie.
The gimmick that beckons Candyman to your house to kill you is introduced from the beginning of the film and means that you are hooked from the outset. We are then introduced to Virgina Madsen’s Helen Lyle, who studies and investigates urban legends for a college course and discovers that there is part of Chicago where people dare not utter the name. Of course, inevitably, Helen does summon the hooked hand killer and the film begins down what could have been a familiar route.
Candyman does offer something different to the usual slasher film formula though. This is a movie trying to be smarter than that and offers The Candyman a history and back-story which has great depth and plenty of potential. His origins manage to successfully explain the hook, the bees and also why this is a rare black horror character, touching upon slavery as part of his tragic beginnings. That isn’t where the message of inequality ends though, as points throughout the film incorporate the idea of embedded racism, from the comparison between the police’s reaction to white victims compared to black victims and even concepts such as gentrification.
There is an ambition running through Candyman which elevates it slightly above the usual horror fare. Candyman himself is not just a hack and slash character, instead feeding of the fear of the public, something Helen manages to undo and so subsequently must reintroduce to bring The Candyman back his power. Where Freddie Kruger is a crude, sarcastic and wise-cracking killer, Tony Todd delivers a performance for Candyman which is more seductive and persuasive, introducing another idea, that of possession and insanity, rather than just an unstoppable killer.
There is so much to like about Candyman, and so many ambitious aspects to the story, that it infuriates when it doesn’t quite manage to commit the whole way to any of them. It seems to touch upon ideas, introduce new concepts and hint towards bigger plot points but never truly develops them, meaning that you get a lot of untapped potential rather than any single idea which manages to become fully realised. This is saved some way by a decent twist at the end of the movie but again, this feels like it could be a whole movie to itself rather than just a final thought in the third act.
Overall, Candyman is more than just the iconic aspect which made it such a school-yard icon. There are aspects of race, both historic and more up-to-date, a complex killer and many other ideas which elevate this movie above just a hack and slash horror. However, for all the decent ideas it has, it never truly realises any of them properly and leaves a lot of untapped potential which could have made this something much better.
Rating – 3.5
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