Candyman

A really unsettling and tense horror film with a lot more o. It’s mind than just blood and guts. This one is streaming on Netflix and definitely worth checking out.

Released in 1992, this horror film follows a pair of graduate students researching urban legends. The one that intrigues them most is the story of the candyman. He’s a supernatural entity with a bloody hook for a hand. If you say his name five times in the mirror he appears behind you and murders you. They don’t believe in the supernatural, but they want to discover the weight people place on the supernatural when real life is too difficult to control or understand. They tempt dark forces and pay a heavy price.

There are a lot of wonderful things about this movie. First is the dreamlike atmosphere it creates. The lines between reality and fantasy are blurred. The heroine, Helen, is either losing her mind or under the control of some other force. Because the film stays firmly fixed in her perspective, the answer to that question is never fully answered. The filmmaking here is tense and full of dread as the horrors are unleashed.

Another wonderful element of this film is how frightening it’s ideas are. Specifically the idea that people can manifest their own fears. That if people believe in candyman enough he will become real. How often have we all heard an inexplicable noise in the basement and thought nothing of it, but when we hear the noise and think “ghost” or “intruder” only then do we feel fear. People create their own monsters. If enough people create the sane monster could it become real? It’s a very fun idea and it’s explored wonderfully here.

The one downside to this movie is the dialogue. There’s a lot of blunt exposition and some unnatural word choice. The characters tell each other information that they already know…” you’re my wife, and I love you.” For example. Thankfully there isn’t a lot of dialogue in this movie. It relies more on stories characters tell each other, and on the actions of its characters to drive the story.

This film is also full of horrifying images. The shot of a massive graffiti face on a wall, there’s a hole in the wall where the moth should be. The eyes of that graffiti get scarier as the movie goes on. The shot of candyman in his long black coat standing in the distance in a parking garage in broad day light manages to be more intimidating and scary than it has any right to be. Parking garages in the day should not be scary places. There is a famous show of candyman covered in bees, he leans in for a kiss as bees pour out of his mouth. It’s visceral, horrifying and upsetting. It is an image that stays with you.

On a personal note this is the first scary film I saw all the way through. I was maybe ten, and I got hooked on it one evening and stayed up late to watch it on tv. The images terrified me then and I couldn’t look in the mirror for a week. The psychological implications of the story frightened me for years. The thought of watching this movie again after all these years scared me. I’m happy to say that while I didn’t lose sleep over it this time, it remains a powerful and unsettling piece of horror filmmaking that is definitely worth your time. Absolutely my cup of tea. A

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