Based on a story by Clive Barker and skillfully written and directed by Bernard Rose, Candyman rises above most horror films by eerily suggesting that some urban legends--in this case a particularly frightening one--have a... more » spooky basis in reality. The legend of the Candyman is a potent one around the high-rise tenements of Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing complex, where the residents speak of a dark, ominous figure who appears when his victims say his name five times in front of a mirror, then mercilessly slashes them to death. Upon learning that the Candyman is rumored to live in one of the vacant tenements, a University of Illinois researcher (Virginia Madsen) investigates a recent murder at Cabrini-Green. She learns that the Candyman (played by Tony Todd) is both unreal and chillingly real--a supernatural force of evil empowered by those who believe in his legend. He is a killer made flesh by the belief of others, and the young researcher's investigation is a threat to his existence. What happens next? We wouldn't dare spoil the chills, but rest assured that writer-director Rose has tapped into a wellspring of urban angst and fear, and Candyman serves up its gruesome frights with a refreshing dose of intelligence. --Jeff Shannon« less
Rodney P. from BEAUMONT, TX Reviewed on 1/14/2019...
one of the best horror films of the 90's Tony Todd became the black Vincent price with this classic!
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Julie V. from IMBODEN, AR Reviewed on 12/8/2011...
I thought it was a great movie
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 6/18/2011...
Tony Todd (Night of the Living Dead 1990) stars in this highly effective film based on a Clive Barker story. This film is one of the best horror movies made during the 1990s and is essential viewing for all fans of the genre.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
The one horror film of the 90's that truly deserves 5 stars
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clive Barker's Candyman was one of the finest horror films I have ever seen and one of my personal favorites. Writer-director Bernard Rose does an excellent job of adapting a Barker story into a masterpiece film that not only provides chills and scares, but also many issues of racism and vengeance.The movie begins with a student telling Helen Lyle, played by the beautiful and extremely talented Virginia Madsen, an urban legend about Candyman. You have to say his name five times in the mirror and he'll appear and split you from the groin up. Helen is writing a thesis on urban legends and is particularly interested in Candyman because of how so many people believe in it. She and her friend, Bernadette, decide to go investigate an apartment complex that was the site of murders that Candyman could be responsible for. That's when a series of murders begin to occur and Helen must try to figure out what's actually going on.Candyman is a rare movie in the nineties that mixes style with ideas. One of the film's most disturbing scenes is when Virginia Madsen is drenched in blood, and is forced to strip her clothes off in front of a police officer. Subtle scenes like that are harder to take than senseless bloody murders in slasher flicks. The acting in this film is also very noteworthy. Madsen's performance is one of the best I've ever seen in a horror film, easily rivaling Ellen Burstyn from The Exorcist. She begins the film as a non-believer, but is converted when she becomes the target of Candyman. By the final third of the film she must decide whether Candyman is real or if she is going insane. Madsen is convincing through all these changes, and she certainly deserves more roles in films these days. Tony Todd also delivers a fine performance as Candyman. Add to the film great writing, directing, and soundtrack and you've got an instant classic. The film provides many questions. Where did Candyman come from? Is he actually real? Candyman's ending is nothing short of unpredictable and surprising."
The best horror film of the 90s.
D. Smithee | 08/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Scream comes close, but the comedy element of that film seems to fit in another genre, horror-comedy maybe. Candyman, on the other hand, is TRUE horror yet belongs in a category all it's own. Besides being downright scary as hell, it's an excellent FILM. Everything from the sound to story pacing is tight and extremely effective, and I have to agree with what someone else here said: Philip Glass' score is so subtle and creepy, it's PERFECT. I can't understand people who don't see the pure beauty of this movie. If you like horror like I do, you should really see this film, maybe even more than once. I saw Candyman in the theater back in '92 and I walked out shaken and completely freaked out. I couldn't look into a mirror for a few days. The only other horror films that have had that effect on me were Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Even though of course I'm not as scared when I watch it now, I can appreciate the skill in which it was crafted and still be swept up in the fantasy this movie creates. Then again, if you're into crap like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, The Faculty, and other trash-horror, you may not appreciate something of this caliber. As for anyone else, it's really is worth checking out."
An overlooked psychological thriller
D. Smithee | Washington, DC USA | 06/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Candyman starts out pedestrian enough. Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a graduate student attempting to wow her instructor while dealing with her cheating professor husband. Helen chooses the local urban legend Candyman to blow her teacher away. Being the detailed and dedicated researcher, she investigates the area where most of Candyman's victims are found; the Cabrini Green housing project. Helen and her fellow student interview residents of the rundown apartment complex, explore an abandoned apartment that has been transformed into a shrine to the title character, and form an unusual bond with a young, struggling mother (Vanessa Williams). All proceeds as one would expect until a murderer using the Candyman legend as a cover is caught by the police. Helen comforts a boy by telling him that the Candyman is not the boogeyman, just a bad man trying to scare and cause harm. This is the turning point of the movie.By destroying the boy's belief in Candyman, Helen invites the entity who describes his state as "to be but not to exist". Candyman is because others believe in him. Helen has destroyed this so he must now revive his legend and resuscitate belief in him. Helen encounters him in a parking garage where he commands her to "be my victim". The next thing she knows, she is lying in the young mother's apartment next to her dead dog with a bloody knife in her hand.From this point Helen descends into madness with murders and a kidnapping surrounding her while her husband's cheating ways are revealed. Eventually Candyman asks Helen to join her in the non-existence of legend. To save a child, Helen agrees and sacrifices her life so the child might live. The worst thing about the movie is a rather cheesy ending that confirms Helen's entry into Urban Legend-hood. Candyman is a well written thriller. It's overabundance of gore overshadows the existential elements. All the actors perform their parts with aplomb. Virginia Madsen is more than believable as a woman on the edge of a breakdown, while Tony Todd was born to play the Candyman. His tall and imposing stature combined with a deep and creepy voice can be truly unnerving at times. Forgive the ending and you have a great horror film."
You've never seen anything quite like it before, and you pro
Evan Bernick | Chicago | 02/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eventually, anyone who makes it their business to seek out quality horror movies is going to come to the conclusion that the ones that succeed in distinguishing themselves from the pack tend to fall into three distinct categories. First, you have the horror movies that are less interested in scaring you than they are seriously exploring their subject matter, and probing into the nature of evil. Sometimes, they go the supernatural route (The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Don't Look Now). Sometimes, they stay grounded (Psycho, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Se7en). Either way, they are more disturbing than they are immediately frightening. You acknowledge that what you've seen has struck a kind of nerve, but you won't lose much sleep. These movies are intellectually compelling but they do not provoke any immediate sense of terror.
On the other hand, the second breed of quality horror movies has no interest in psychology, in the "nature" of their content, and do not attempt to intellectually engage you. They only want to make you feel as if you are in immediate danger. The movies that fall into this category (Halloween, Alien) do not provide food for thought, but they know how to make you uncomfortable, and they know how to push your buttons. They are manipulative in the extreme, but they are actively frightening, and provide visceral experiences that the previous category of horror films cannot.
Finally, the third category of superlative horror films distinguish themselves by remaining conscious of themselves. They want to frighten you, but they also want to convince you that they are "above" merely pushing your buttons. At the same time, they don't want to go the intellectual route either. These films (Scream, Dawn of the Dead) are made by people who know the genre, know that the audience knows the genre, and toe a thin line between adhering to genre conventions and examining those conventions explicitly. These films are very effective, even if they are too cool for the room. You laugh knowingly, and then, bam, something truly frightening wipes that smirk right off your face.
Bernard Rose's "Candyman" is a rarity in that it falls into all three of these categories. It is intellectually stimulating and it knows a great deal about the nature of evil, but it is also, truly, viscerally frightening. It is self-aware and yet, it is not too cool for the room, and there is no comfortable distance to be found from the nightmare that unfolds on the screen. It is as immediately frightening as the orginal Halloween, it is as thought-provoking as The Exorcist, and it is as aware as itself as the Scream trilogy. You've never seen anything quite like it before, and you probably won't see anything like it again.
The plot of Candyman centers around a woman who is as much of an agnostic when it comes to the intangible world as one could imagine; she boldly pursues strides into the haunts of a malevolent spiritual force (the Cabrini Green Housing Projects in Chicago, which are dangerous enough without factoring evil spirits into the equation) in search of discovering the source of the legend of the Candyman, a man with a hook for an arm who can be summoned by repeating his name into a mirror five times. She is convinced, as any liberal pseudo-sociologist might be, that the Candyman is but a projection of the fears the urban poor have of gang/drug-related violence. The fact that there is a gang leader who has taken to calling himself the Candyman reinforces this conviction.
For this woman, the idea that there is evil in the world, pure evil, unconditioned by economic/racial (most of the residents of Cabrini Green are poor and black) factors is unthinkable. She does not believe that the Candyman is anything more than an idea. She is wrong. The Candyman is real, and he doesn't much like the challenge to his authority posed by her skepticism. Furthermore, she reminds him of someone from his past whom he wishes to be reunited with, and thus he comes to view her as a conquest on more levels than one.
For about half of the film, we follow the woman, played by Virginia Madsen, and her friend, played by Kasi Lemmons, as they trek through Cabrini, exchange notes, and conduct the affairs of their lives. Madsen's grad student is no different from a lot of young people. She is determined to make a mark on her field, she's a little suspicious about her husband's fidelity, she smokes, she's pretty, she's intelligent and she seems nice enough. She draws our sympathy.
However, midway through the film, there is a decisive rupture, and everything in Madsen's life begins to unravel at an alarming rate. The chain of events that follow a particularly frightening scene in a parking lot take on the logic of a nightmare that one is unable to escape from. Soon, everything we have come to know about the young woman we've been following, all of the connections she has to her friends, to her husband, to humanity in general seem to be undone. It would be unfair to describe exactly what happens, but let it be said that the final fifty minutes of Candyman are as frightening as anything I've seen on film.
We thought we were safe, after all. The character we'd been following had friends, family, a job, a life of her own. The possibility of coming into conflict with nothing less than pure evil was the farthest thing from her mind; she and her friend were more concerned about packing the requisite mace for their journey through the projects, more afraid of drug dealers than of demons. After all, the Candyman is an urban legend, and we know all about urban legends. They're campfire stories. There is no Boogeyman, not really.
Rose plays on the self-conscious approach we take to horror films by decisively arguing that it will not save us. He engages us intellectually by toying with the idea of whether the Candyman is literally real, or only becomes literally real if enough people are afraid of him (I'll leave that up to you to decide). And he frightens us at an immediate level by pulling the rug out from under us at a crucial moment, and by never allowing us to regain our footing. It doesn't hurt that he has an uncanny eye for frightening visuals (the bees swallowing the Chicago skyline, the Candyman's self-portrait), plus the help of a terrific soundtrack from Philip Glass (whose presence reminds us that, hey, this is a serious piece of art) and compelling performances on all levels. Not to mention a great idea, and, yes, the ability to push our buttons and manipulate us when he wants to.
Candyman is, as far as I'm concerned, the second most frightening film ever made; the original Halloween still remains the only movie that made me briefly fear for my own safety. But I would argue that the horror genre has produced no more complete work of art-- no other film that engages the viewer on every conceivable level they could ask to be engaged on-- than Rose's masterpiece. Halloween becomes exponentially less scary with repeated viewings, as you begin to get the sequence down and figure out what's coming. Candyman's power remains undiminished, even once you get the sequence down, because the scares give way to the ideas.
Don't miss it.
Rated R: Contains some very graphic gore (nothing that will really surprise those used to the genre, but this movie does get pretty ugly by any standard-- seriously, who said this wasn't gory enough?) some language, and brief nudity (not in a sexual context)."
M. | Mass. | 02/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another Barker masterpiece, Candyman is my second favorite story from Clive Barker right next to Hellraiser, and it is one of the scariest horror films of all time. Anybody that has seen a Clive Barker movie or read one of his books knows he is the master of imagination, and Candyman is no exception. It is one of the first horror films to use the urband legend theme and the only one to do it correctly in my opinion. Virginia Madsens performance is excelleent and Tony Todd plays one of the best villians in horror history. Not quite on the same level as Hellraiser, but then again, nothing really is. By far one of the best horror films of the 90's. Highly recommended."