You know you’ve been affected by a piece of art when you constantly need to revisit it and find new things in every viewing. Sometimes art stays with you because of its mystery, your continuous struggle to determine what the piece means. I have experienced this with quite a few films, Candyman is one of them.
Every time I watch it, I get a new angle on its narrative. I cannot say objectively what the film is about. So in this review, as a conclusion to Halloween 2017, I am going to simply state my current theories and why I think Candyman is an incredible film.
The premise of this 1992 horror concerns a graduate student, Helen Lyle, researching urban legends in Cabrini-Green Chicago for her thesis. The focus of her investigation is a legend known as Candyman, a boogeyman with a hook for a hand who appears when you say his name five times before a mirror. After a series of brutal and unexplained events, Helen begins to question whether the Candyman is just a myth or something far more real.
Philip Glass and the Atmosphere
The horror in Candyman is subtler than in most horror films. While there are some gory scenes, most of the film’s horror manifests in its atmosphere. The affect Candyman has on the community socially is just as disturbing as the Candyman himself.
We see graffiti art depicting the Candyman in a monstrous style. We hear eerie stories about Cabrini residents hearing something “coming through the walls”, calling the police and not being believed. We hear even more gruesome stories about the Candyman mutilating children in public toilets. The film introduces us to the idea of the Candyman and what he does to his victims, which creates a lot of tension because when you first see him, there’s a notorious reputation and backstory in your head.
This grim, eerie atmosphere is expressed beautifully by Philip Glass’ soundtrack. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll notice that I rarely comment on a film’s technical qualities (cinematography, editing, soundtrack) but in Candyman the score is so incredible I can’t ignore it. With an operatic choir and organ, Glass creates music that conveys the huge, god-like devastation the Candyman myth has caused in the community. The soundtrack will never leave you.
As I stated before, I can’t say what the film is about with certainty. My thoughts change with each viewing. However, I think I can say with some confidence that Candyman does comment on the American class system. I’m not the only one who thinks this, there’re quite a few reviews and articles online that share a similar opinion.
This is one of the main qualities of Candyman that makes it so unique and affective compared to most horror films. Its horror is based heavily in reality. The film depicts an African American community being terrorized by an unknown force and receiving no aid from the authorities. I think the Candyman symbolizes the American criminal, the drug lord, the little tyrant that was able to take over the town because the authorities couldn’t be bothered to intervene.
The more Helen denies his existence, the stronger he becomes because that’s how tyrants thrive. From the ignorance of the higher powers. This stems into a harrowing plot where Helen tries everything to reject and reason with the Candyman.
The story of a monster terrorizing a small community due to the ignorance of authorities I think can be applied to any crime ridden area in the states or anywhere in the world. However, to see the story executed so maturely and atmospherically in a horror film I think is very rare.
I have no doubt the next time I watch the film I’ll have more theories, some of them could be expansions of the ones I just shared or they could be completely different. My point is, Candyman conveys ideas and feelings unlike any other film I’ve seen. It’s been around for over two decades and it still has an impact, so I encourage everyone to give it a watch.
I give Candyman an outstanding 10 out of 10.
UPDATE: If you’re a fan of zombies and theatre, then I’ve got the show for you! Some friends of mine are doing a stage version of Night of the Living Dead called No More Room In Hell in Sunderland.
If you’re in the area please drop by and give the show a watch. You’ll be in for some great performances by some fantastic actors! Check here for info on dates and tickets.