Based on the Clive Barker story "The Forbidden", Candyman is the story of Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a graduate student in Chicago writing a thesis about urban myths, legends, and folklore. Helen's research takes her into the ganglands and the projects of Cabrini Green in search of "Candyman", a vicious killer with a hook for a hand. She finds out that Candyman is not only very much real, but is responsible for a series of grisly crimes for which Helen herself will be charged.
Ah, Candyman. I love this movie and I have since I saw it in the theatre during its original run in 1992. In fact, after seeing it the first time, my friends and I were all so scared we immediately went to a cemetery and dared each other to say "Candyman!" five times. Yes it was a retarded thing to do, and no- no one would say his name five times. While the movie doesn't scare me as it did then, I still think it's a fantastic flick and far underrated. I'd easily put in near the top of the list for horror films of the last 15 years.
As a horror film, it holds up just swell. There's gore, there's terror, there's Tony Todd's booming voice. More than sheer visceral thrills, however, Candyman works so well because it's a film that's got something to say: it's a meditation on racism, classism, fame, inner city economics, crime, and the power of myth. It's a very smart movie.
I mentioned Tony Todd's voice- his deep baritone is absolutely chilling, and as he stands at about 10'3", he cuts an imposing figure when he finally emerges from the shadows. Virginia Madsen is fanfuckingtastic as Helen, and I'm glad to see that she's finally getting some recognition for her acting- talk about underrappreciated. And then there's the haunting score by Philip Glass- Philip Glass! Scoring a horror flick! The spare piano refrains and gothic touches are among the best I've heard in a horror movie, and prove exactly what John Carpenter proved with his soundtrack for Halloween: that less really is more. Who needs pounding, blaring heavy metal? It doesn't heighten anyone's fear...but a mere 10 notes played on a piano will stay with you and draw you in to the atmosphere.
I saw the second Candyman flick, and I know there's more in the series, but...they just don't have whatever magic it is that the first film has. They're all A-1 without the steak, you know? Hey, I'm hungry! On to flick #2...whatever shall I choose?