Urban legends are powerful things. Everyone grew up with stories of places we couldn’t go, or things we couldn’t do or else something would get us. I vividly recall a certain garage just past the boundaries of my elementary schools play-yard, and we were CONVINCED that something evil lived inside. We would invent stories about whatever it might be, and of course tell tall tales of when we were brave enough to venture inside (always alone, so there was no way to validate our bullshit bravado). And wouldn’t you know it? We were convinced that Candyman lived inside.
Candyman was released in 1992, when my peers and I were about the age of 7. I know I wasn’t allowed to watch the film til years later, but somehow the story of a man in a long coat with a hook for a hand who would appear in the mirror if you called his name 5 times, found its way to us and became an Urban Legend. Ironic in that the film itself deals with stories being passed on and growing into legend. When I did finally get to see this film I was about 10 years old and it scared the fucking shit out of me! I can’t watch it today without getting chills. http://youtu.be/3uNPW7d5mhw
The plot concerns Graduate student Helen Lyle working on her thesis on Urban Legends. In her studies she learns of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, which seems gripped by fear over the local legend of Candyman. As she begins to delve deep into a world of poverty, gentrification and fear, Helen learns that stories can be more powerful and real than she’d ever imagined. Originally from a story by Clive Barker entitled The Forbidden, Candyman definetly has a familiar Barker feeling to it. Candyman sets his sights on Helen because she encourages residents of Cabrini-Green to stop believing in him. Candyman is nothing without his story. He needs to kill her to revive the residents belief in him, thereby ensuring immortality for himself through the retelling of his deeds. In essence, the film is a story about a story that is determined to keep being a story that people tell.
So many things about this film are perfectly done. Any scene depicting the bleak gentrification of Cabrini-Green gives the impression of hopelessness and lawlessness. You really believe that within those walls you will never be safe. Safe from the violence and decay that plague the area, or safe from the ripping and tearing of Candyman’s hook. Much credit goes to actor Tony Todd as well. His creepy voice and commanding presence gives life to the Candyman. No matter what role I see him portray, he will always be Candyman to me. How appropriate that the impact of the film would so closely mimick the story itself, scaring me and countless others enough that we keep the legend alive.
Are you brave enough to look in the mirror and say “Candyman” five times? Your answer might be different after watching this film.