“Sweets to the sweet…”
I genuinely think that Candyman could well be the most underrated horror film of all time. By 1992 all the main horror franchises were dying. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare had done nothing to revive the ailing Elm Street franchise, Halloween 5: The Curse of Michael Myers was as bad as it sounds and the Friday the 13th franchise had reached its nadir with Jason Takes Manhatten. With Scream still four years away, the only other prominent horror films released in 1992 were Dead Alive by some guy called Peter Jackson and the Army of Darkness by another nobody named Sam Raimi. I wonder what happened to those guys… On a serious note, the fact that horror was in such dire straits perhaps explains why Candyman was allowed to go unnoticed.
Instead of relying on the same old tired slasher tropes, director Bernard Rose and writer Clive Barker (who also wrote Hellraiser), looked to the Victorian era and Gothic literature for their main inspiration. While the film has a modern setting, Chicago’s infamous Carbrini-Green housing project, it takes inspiration from Dracula and Frankenstein with the titular antagonist being a lurid mixture of both. Tony Todd plays the mythical Candyman to perfection in a performance to match any of the more well known horror movie villains. Refreshingly, especially in this genre, Todd’s co-stars are equally as impressive. Virginia Madsen is by turns independent and completely vulnerable and Xander Berkeley is her match as her slimy husband Trevor. The domestic noir that plays out between them would make for a great movie all on its own. This is all soundtracked by an absolutely jaw dropping score from composer Phillip Glass. Genuinely one of the most memorable and chilling I have ever heard.
Candyman is still as fresh now as it ever has been and it is absurd that it has never been courted for a remake. Perhaps it is too arty, too difficult to define. Instead, for those that have seen it, we have been left with a film that has surpassed its medium to become more like a tale of folklore. A story around a campfire… The whisper in the classroom… If you say his name five times in the mirror – he will come for you.