31 Days of Horror: Candyman (1992) – REVIEW

We have come to yet another film that I really should’ve seen sooner. I had heard a lot of good things about Candyman, so the bar was set high. What I was expecting from this film is not something I can really describe. I knew little to nothing about it beforehand. After watching, however, I can say it’s a very impactful horror with brains and beauty. It looks good, and has the power to make you think about it long after you’re finished watching.

The story centres on Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a graduate student completing a thesis on The Candyman (Tony Todd). Skeptical about the supposed urban legend, Helen accidentally summons him back into existence where he wreaks havoc.


Candyman is a ghost story with a difference

When you think of a good ghost story, you assume there will be a certain level of atmosphere on offer. This is something Candyman delivers on straight out of the gate. The opening music plays a huge part in this. It’s a strange mix, with choir sounds and what I’m guessing is some kind of electronic keyboard-type instrument. As odd as it may seem, you can feel it perfectly fits the film before things even get started.

As we progress, the film’s mythical foundations are officially set. I loved how Candyman acknowledged that folklore usually stems from a crumb of truth. Throughout the earlier stages of the film, it’s not completely clear that ghosts are what we’re dealing with here. It almost dares you to rationalise what’s going on, which carries its own perils, as anyone who has seen the film will know.


This is a film that pays close attention to its visuals

The cinematography is a work of art in itself. The clean lines in the aerial shots of the city, the framing of the street art and the symmetry – a prominent feature throughout the whole film – are just the tip of the iceberg. These weren’t just shots that looked good, but had clearly been thought about and were there to serve a purpose. I love that there was so much attention to detail by director Bernard Rose because it really caught my attention in a project where there is already so much going on.

Also a key part of the visuals were the housing projects where this urban legend originated. Candyman doesn’t shy away from showing how desolate these places are, which reinforces many of the ideas the film explores. This is a film that horrifies just as much with the evils that aren’t immediately apparent. These often don’t hit you until much later on, when the full-frontal assault by the title character has subsided.


When it comes to revealing said character, Candyman shows great self-restraint as it was roughly an hour before he made his first proper appearance. I think it’s always interesting looking at when writers decide to make reveals like this as films often live or die based on these exact moments. Whilst I wish I could’ve seen more of Tony Todd in action, I admire the guts in holding off for that long. I also liked how this official introduction really kickstarted that latter half of the film.

On the whole, I quite liked Candyman

It’s a film I will grow to love based on multiple viewings as there was a lot of subtext and foreshadowing that I definitely missed based on how much has come back to me in the process of writing this. It’s a film that has received a lot of care and attention from the creatives involved – everything is intentional, and it’s the smaller details that make all the difference. 

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