For a while there, we were getting quite a few Clive Barker horror films. His gory and often highly sexual stories seemed like a good fit for 80s and 90s horror cinema. He also tended to delve deep into the dark side of human nature, and it wasn’t always pretty when you saw something dark peering back at you. Of course not all adaptations of his work were successful and that may have lead to his stuff not being translated to film too often these days. Did this flick capture the spirit of Barker’s dark and disturbing world?
Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is working on master’s thesis involving urban legends. One of the most interesting stories she encounters tells of a sadistic killer named Candyman (Tony Todd). He has a hook instead of a hand, and appears if you say his name five times while facing a mirror. Helen investigates the stories of Candyman in some of the more dangerous and run down areas of Chicago. She discovers that people are truly afraid of this mysterious figure. Helen’s clinical approach keeps her from being drawn in, even making fun of the whole thing and saying Candyman’s name five times in a mirror.
Helen starts to hear a voice in her head, and see a huge man always watching and waiting. One minute she is facing him, the next she’s laying in a pool of blood that isn’t hers and being accused of abducting a baby. Has the research into Candyman caused Helen to snap, or has something more sinister occurred. Is it possible that a story can be believed so strongly that it becomes reality? Look in a mirror, say Candyman five times and find out.
- An amazing performance by Virginia Madsen
- Tony Todd is one of the most imposing and fearsome specters of the 1990s
- Balances psychological horror with gory kills
- A slow burn, takes nearly 45 minutes before Candyman truly appears
- Philip Glass’ score may pull some viewers out of the film
- May be a bit too disturbing for those looking for a fun horror flick
In my mind this is one of the best adaptations of Clive Barker’s storytelling brought to screen. Madsen’s fine performance allows us to connect to her, so when things start to go wrong we are drawn into the horror. The movie does not hold back in building tension and dread. The finale is disturbing but fitting in its own way. Well worth checking out and certainly one of the best horror films of the 1990s.
Scores (out of 5)
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