Candyman (1992)

From Mental Block


Candyman is a 1992 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Bernard Rose and starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons and Vanessa Williams. Based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, the film follows a Chicago graduate student who was completing a thesis on the urban legends and folklore which led her to the legend of the "Candyman", the ghost of an artist and son of a slave who was murdered in the late 19th century for his relationship with a white painter's daughter.

The film came to fruition after a chance meeting between Rose and Barker who recently completed his own film adaptation of Nightbreed (1990). Rose expressed interest in Barker's story "The Forbidden", and Barker agreed to license the rights. Where Barker's story revolved around the themes of the British class system in contemporary Liverpool, Rose chose to refit the story to Cabrini-Green's public housing development in Chicago and instead focus on the themes of race and social class in the inner-city United States.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Helen Lyle is a semiotics graduate student in Chicago who is researching urban legends. She hears a local story about the Candyman who can be summoned by saying his name five times to a mirror, causing him to appear and kill the summoner with a hook that was attached to the bloody stump of his right arm. Helen meets two cleaning ladies who claimed that it was the Candyman who killed Ruthie Jean, a resident in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project. Helen and her colleague Bernadette Walsh look into the case and learn about another twenty-five murders like that of Ruthie Jean's. Skeptical about the legend, Helen and Bernadette repeat the Candyman's name to Helen's bathroom mirror, but nothing happens.

Helen decides to write a thesis on how the residents of Cabrini-Green used the Candyman legend to cope with the hardships. She and Bernadette enter the housing project and visit the scene of Ruthie Jean's murder. There, they meet Anne-Marie McCoy and her infant son Anthony who tells her more about the night of the murder.

Helen also learns more about the Candyman from Professor Philip Purcell. According to Purcell, the Candyman was the son of a slave who became prosperous by mass-producing shoes after the Civil War. At an early age, he was accepted by the white society. As a well-known artist, he was sought after to paint the portraits of wealthy landowners and their children. After falling in love with a white woman that he was hired to paint and fathering a child with her, the Candyman was set upon by a lynch mob that was hired by his lover's father. They cut off his right hand with a rusty saw and smeared him with honey stolen from an apiary, attracting the bees which sting him to death. His corpse was burned and his ashes were scattered across the land on which Cabrini-Green was built.

On a return visit to Cabrini-Green, Helen meets Jake, a young boy who tells Helen that a child was castrated by the Candyman in a restroom. While exploring the restroom, Helen is attacked by a gang leader who carries a hook and calls himself the Candyman. Helen survives the assault with a black eye and identifies her attacker to the police, who believed him to be responsible for the killings.

Later, in a parking garage, Helen is confronted by the real Candyman. He tells her that because she discredited his legend, he must "shed innocent blood" to perpetuate it. Helen blacks out and wakes up in Anne-Marie's apartment covered in blood. Anne-Marie, whose dog was decapitated and baby was stolen, attacks Helen, who is arrested by the police. Helen's husband Trevor, a university professor, bails her out of jail. The Candyman appears again and cuts Helen's neck, causing her to bleed and pass out. Bernadette shows up at Helen's apartment, where she is murdered by the Candyman, who frames Helen for the crime. Helen is sedated and placed in a psychiatric hospital.

After a month in the hospital, Helen is interviewed by a psychiatrist named Dr. Burke in preparation for her upcoming trial. She attempts to prove her innocence by summoning the Candyman. The Candyman appears and kills Dr. Burke, allowing Helen to escape. Once Helen is home, she finds Trevor living with Stacey, one of his students with whom he's been having an affair. Helen flees to Cabrini-Green, seeking to confront the Candyman and rescue Anthony. When she finds the Candyman, he tells her that surrendering to him will ensure the baby's safety. Offering Helen immortality, the Candyman opens his coat, revealing a ribcage wreathed in bees. The bees pour out of his mouth as he kisses her, sending the bees down her throat. The Candyman vanishes with Anthony, and Helen discovers a mural of the Candyman and his lover, who bears a striking resemblance to Helen. The mural, as well as a message that was left by the Candyman, implies that Helen is a reincarnation of the Candyman's former lover.

The Candyman promises to release Anthony if Helen helps him strike fear in Cabrini-Green's residents. In a bid to feed his legend, the Candyman tries to immolate Helen and the child in a bonfire, but he is destroyed in it. Helen saves Anthony, but she is burned severely and dies. The residents, including Anne-Marie and Jake, pay their respects at Helen's funeral. Jake tosses the Candyman's hook into her grave. Afterward, a grief-stricken and guilt-ridden Trevor looks at his bathroom mirror and says Helen's name five times. Helen's vengeful spirit appears and kills Trevor with a hook, leaving his body to be found by Stacey.

As the credits begin to roll, in the Candyman's former lair, a new mural of Helen with her hair ablaze is displayed, implying that she entered the local folklore.

Gallery[edit | edit source]