A Short Review of Candyman (1992)
In anticipation of Nia DaCosta’s remake, I watched the original Candyman last night and although it wasn’t spectacular the film held up as a decent feature with interesting plot and characters.
Candyman tells the story of two university students who are studying Urban legends, one of which is of the mysterious serial killer Candyman. He has a hook for a weapon which replaces his dismembered left hand and appears when you repeat his name five times. As he haunts our protagonist, Helen, one of the students, they form an unsettling bond where Candyman manipulates and frames her for various vicious crimes. His flitting between reality and folklore makes him seem a grand delusion which lands Helen in a mental hospital after a string of grisly crimes. This is all set in the backdrop of Chicago and the inner city projects where Candyman is said to have begun his streak of killings.
What interests me most about the film is its commentary on social hierarchy and institutionalised racism. The inhabitants of the projects, largely of African American descent, are neglected by police who fail to show up when called. This highlights institutionalised racism as those of a lower economic background are not a priority for the authorities which makes it all the more hopeless and terrifying. The origin story of Candyman himself is a harrowing tale of racial abuse and hatred and this haunting nature may signify the horrors of a dark past yearning for a just revenge.
The reimagining of the past in the form of a ghastly antagonist is a classic horror trope and this film pulls it off to a tee. In addition, urban myths symbolise an ambiguous tension between fiction and reality, some refute it wholly some do not others are on the fringes. This embodies the past trope above but also plays on the fears and superstitions of the characters and audiences – an ambient mystery leaves us on the edge of our seats. Other tropes include cheap jump-scares, overly gory violence, threatening music, morbid curiosity, derelict buildings and a passive or vulnerable female protagonist.
Candyman is a being who thrives upon other’s beliefs in his existence and without this belief he ceases to exist. This is an almost perfect character trait as it introduces reverse psychology and plays on our minds. The terrifying nature of the killer’s exploits is an element of horror and thusly the film cleverly blurs the boundaries between the horror and psychological thriller genres. From a genre standpoint then, the film is more than an average horror yet still maintains and hits the horror/slasher genre on the head.
Overall, this 1992 classic is an enjoyable watch which will leave you scarred with its ultra-violent, unsettling tone and unhinging ending; despite this it will most certainly set the tone for the remake, which Jordan Peele (‘Get Out’, ‘Us’) co-writes, which comes to theatres in the UK this Friday.
Be sure to stay tuned for my full review of Candyman (2021).