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Candyman (1992) – Rated R

“While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood…what’s blood for if not for shedding.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban┬áLegend series of movies ever did – it even throws in a shot of razor blade candy. Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The opening credits play out over scenes of urban highways and a haunting theme from Philip Glass.

The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. The graffiti and the projects are characters in and of themselves. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus.

Virginia Madsen, so good (and nominated for as Oscar) in Sideways, is very engaging as urban legend researcher Helen Lyle. Xander (24) Berkeley is solid as her long suffering husband Trevor Lyle. They both handle a good range of emotions from complacence to fear, anger, and jealousy. Vanessa Williams is also good as the angry but vulnerable Anne-Marie McCoy.

Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. He is very scary, has a nice presence and a wonderful deep voice but is also a wee bit sympathetic. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth – that is true dedication to one’s craft. Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed – they are expounded upon more in the sequels.

Unfortunately some of Helen’s early decisions,┬ásuch as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Her climbing through a hole into a an abandoned and heavily graffitied room is a wonderful visual though.

Bernard Rose made so many good design decisions in Candyman. The narrative appropriately plays out over a fairly lengthy period of time. Other than a single brief reflection, we do not see the titular Candyman until forty minutes in. Wonderful shots by cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond really help lift this horror movie up to the level of art.

People Watch: Look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film. Writer/director Bernard Rose has a cameo as Archie Walsh.

Sequel-itis: Candyman spawned two lesser sequels: The not bad Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and the direct-to-DVD Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999). Both star Tony Todd as Daniel Robetaille/The Candyman. Tony Todd and Clive Barker are interested in doing a fourth film but I suspect a reboot is likely to happen.