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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 157: Candyman

Candyman, Candyman. Does whatever a candy can

Urban legends are a lot of fun. Everywhere in the world has their local myths, from the biggest city to the smallest town. They range from alligators in the sewers to hidden communities of mutated freaks. Urban legends can even be between different economic groups. I'm sure there's whispers around gated communities that poor people are going to take away from rich people's trust funds. This movie explores an urban legend from a racial standpoint. And what's a better way to explore race than with a legend coming to life with bloody results?

Candyman is a 1992 supernatural horror movie based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker. Starring Virginia Madsen (Sideways, The Haunting In Connecticut) as graduate student Helen Lyle, Helen is writing her thesis on urban legends. While interviewing freshmen on their superstitions, she overhears people talking about the local legend, Candyman. The legend has it that Candyman was the son of slaves who impregnated a white woman. He was chased down by a mob, had his hand sawed off and replaced with a hook, smothered with honey and stung to death by bees. If you say his name five times while looking in a mirror, he supposedly appears and kills you. Helen and her friend Bernadette jokingly say his name five times, but nothing happens. Their research leads them to Cabrini-Green, a dangerous gang-infested inner-city project. As she gets closer to the legend, she is assaulted by a gang, lead by a man claiming to be Candyman. She recovers and returns to the projects where she is accosted by another man claiming to be Candyman (Tony Todd, The Rock, Nite Tales). He says that he must show her his powers. Helen blacks out and wakes up in one of the apartments, covered in blood. She is arrested and accused of kidnapping a baby. She is bailed out by her husband and when Bernadette comes to visit, Candyman reappears and murders her. Helen is committed to a psychiatric hospital, but escapes thanks to Candyman's interference. She makes it back to Cabrini-Green where Candyman offers her the missing baby in exchange for her sacrifice. What will Helen do?

Get lost in his eyes, apparently

The movie takes a pretty basic concept and makes it unique thanks to a unique story and really good acting. The pacing really works as the audience delves deeper down the rabbit hole along with Helen. When her world comes crashing down around her with reality and fantasy melding, we're glued to the screen because we have no idea what is going to happen next. We learn about Candyman bit by bit, but are never bored with what's happening on screen thanks to real world dangers. The movie's atmospheric fear is complimented by the bleak locations and focus on the gritty inner-city, a backdrop that should be used more often. The real world is far scarier than any far-off planet or fantasy realm. The anxiety and fear is palatable, thanks to a really good performance by Virginia Madsen.

The movie has a good amount of violence with plenty of blood and gore. Director Bernard Rose (Immortal Beloved, Two Jacks) has a good eye for horror and really captures the atmospheric terror. Candyman is a good villain because of the mystery surrounding him, but for some reason, he's not a great villain. Perhaps it's because he doesn't have as much screen time as you'd expect, but I was a bit disappointed overall in how he was used. It's not Tony Todd's fault because he's awesome as Candyman, but the movie hits a bit of a wall when the movie finally focuses on Candyman. It's not bad, but instead of being a home run, the movie is more like a stand-up double.

Let's bee friends

Candyman is a fun and thrilling psychological horror movie that capitalizes on the fears caused by the real world as well. There is plenty of violence and exciting moments with an underlying feel of dread. Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd both put in great performances and really carry the movie. The writing is solid, complimented by good direction. For a movie with the main villain in the title, I felt that there wasn't enough Candyman on the screen and what was show only hinted at his awesomeness. Ultimately, it's a good movie that could have (and almost was) great.


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