Candyman (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

We both liked this film, even though it is not really our kind of film. The powerful presence of Tony Todd, some subtle ambiguity, and some good scares all combined to win us over.

Scoop's comments in white:

Candyman was skillfully adapted into an American Urban Legend, from a short story by Clive Barker which was originally about a superstition held by working class families in Liverpool. Barker himself took the role of executive producer, so the metamorphosis was done with his consent and co-operation.

It's a good movie, with a lush big-budget "look and feel" and an excellent cast. A-list actors and direction made it a scary movie that is actually scary, for several reasons:

1. The director makes excellent use of the sudden surprises and jump cuts so popular in this genre. It is common practice to deprecate their use, but I like 'em when they are done well.

2. The Urban legend itself is scary. Stand in front of a mirror and repeat his name five times. I guarantee if you were a kid or somebody likely to believe in the preternatural, and somebody spun this tale for you as if it were true, and there were real murders in your neighborhood that people attributed to this mythical dude, that you would be scared to do the ritual. Oh, maybe you'd do it, but don't tell me you wouldn't be apprehensive and chilled before saying that fifth "Candyman".

3. The bogieman himself is played by a powerful screen presence (Tony Todd) who is simultaneously chilling and romantic, and not at all unsympathetic. After all, he is a man who loved honestly and zealously in his lifetime, and who was unfairly tortured and killed for it.

4. The story leaves open the possibility that the scientific researcher is the real murderer, and is subconsciously using the Candyman legend to bury the guilt. (Remember we saw her hit someone with a meat-cleaver, and the police caught her, after all, with the cleaver in her hand, about to descend on a woman. Furthermore, the videotape evidence never supports her versions of the stories.)

In fact, in a logical world, the world of the police investigators, a world which admits no possibility of supernatural causes, Helen must have committed the crimes. In her meeting with Candyman, he says that people are starting to doubt him, so he has to do some new killings. Oh, really? Well, if that's the case, why would he make it look like Helen committed the crimes? That would make Candyman seem even less credible, not more credible. If Candydude committed the crimes, he'd want everyone to be very clear on that point, wouldn't he?. Nobody will be afraid of Candydude if they think some chick named Helen really committed the murders and is under secure lock and key.

Not to mention the baby thing.

Helen was in the prison hospital for 30 days while the baby was missing. Of course, the baby thing is a major plot loophole. If Candydude isn't real, then who took care of the baby for 30 days while Helen was incarcerated? Then Candydude must be real. But during that time, do you expect me to believe that Candydude was changing the baby's diapers and giving him his 4 A.M. feeding? Say what? He pops into an all-night Eckerd's for pampers and formula? We know he couldn't have killed the clerks while Madsen was locked up, because the emergence of the real killer would have exonerated her. So he must have paid for the stuff he needed. How does he reach into his pocket to get his wallet? How does he earn money? Anyway, he shows this loving kindness toward the baby for a month, but is perfectly willing to let him die in the closing bonfire? Come, now.

Anyway, the ambiguity makes the film special, because it leaves the impression that the entire thing could have been a product of Helen's warped mind. After all, none of this happened until the other professor filled in the details of the Candyman legend for her. Only then did she start thinking about the hook and the bees.

I never did figure out why he's called the Candyman. Is he named after a Sammy Davis, Jr song? Shouldn't he be the Hookdude, or the Beeguy or something?


see Tuna's commentary in yellow

After watching the movie, I read "The Forbidden", the story which forms the basis for "Candyman". As is usually the case when one checks the written source, the major plot holes in the movie were not present in the original source.

1. In the written version, the Candyman didn't babysit for a month. He killed the baby right away, as you would expect him to do to keep his Evil Entity Equity card. I guess Hollywood rejected this version.

2. Needless to say, the Candyman didn't try to place the blame for the killing on Helen. As I stated above, that would have been contrary to his purpose in committing the killing in the first place. The only reason he did it was to bring back his legend to the foreground of people's consciousness - to make himself live again in their fears and in their tales - and he would not have been able to do that unless he took personal credit for the horror.

DVD info from Amazon. The DVD has no special features except the theatrical trailer, but the basics are excellent. The picture quality is excellent, and the disc includes both a standard version and a 1.85-1 widescreen version. There was no cheapie version produced. Both versions are clear and newly mastered from an original print. Side-by-side version comparisons. The standard version shows about 6% more on the top and 6% more on the bottom than the widescreen. The widescreen version shows about 11% more on the right, and 11% more on the left.

Book info from Amazon. "The Essential Clive Barker", which includes the complete text of The Forbidden.

Additional video info from Amazon. Clive Barker himself directed an earlier (1973) adaptation of "The Forbidden". That short film is included on a video tape which also includes "Salome" (another story), and an interview with Barker.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Candyman (1992) is an adaptation of a Clive Barker story that mixes scholarly study of urban legends with horror, murder, the supernatural, and insanity. Helen (Virginia Madsen) is a professor's wife working on her doctoral thesis on urban legends with Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) when they become interested in the tale of Candyman, who has a hook for a hand and is rumored to be responsible for all the evil in the Chicago projects. All you have to do is say his name five times into a mirror, and he will show up and murder you. The obvious answer? Don't say Candyman five times into a mirror. Unfortunately, Helen can't see the obvious, and Candyman starts killing her friends and leaving her to take the blame, or maybe she is insane, and is doing the murders, or maybe Candyman is controlling her and forcing her to murder. One of the strengths of this film is that it lets you form your opinion about what is going on, and what is imagined.

The film manages both startle and suspense freight, and is brilliantly filmed with a great cast. Virginia Madsen shows breasts in two scenes, and Carolyn Lowery, as a coed who is sleeping with Madsen's hubby, has a lengthy scene with great pokies.

This is not my genre, and I found myself drawn in. Many of the plot elements are simply not logical when scrutinized, but the film never really tells you what was real and what was imagined.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert slipped it a three spot.

The People Vote ...

  • The film was a moderate success, with a $26 million domestic gross generated by a moderate budget. It has generated two sequels so far, the latter of which went straight-to-vid.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a B- (Tuna). Top-notch genre fare that may even appeal to people who are not big horror fans.

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