Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Candyman (1992)

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.

Good Points:
  • 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

Bad Points:
  • 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)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 5
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 5
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Sammy Davis, Jr. was a brave man in choice of songs among other things.

    Fun flick.

    1. You know, I don't think they play the song in the film at all. Mostly you get Phillip Glass' score and some that is about it.

      Virginia Madsen owns this flick. She's awesome in it.

  2. This was a pretty good horror film. Not very many movies can pull off the effect of shooting a creepy scene in broad daylight, but this one somehow managed it. I was actually going to do it for my "Halloween Horror" feature, but I watched too many horror films at once and by the time I got to this one my mind had been burned out and I couldn't take it anymore. I'd do it during this month but I've been so busy I'm not sure I'll have time.

    1. You're right, you rarely see scary sequences in the day. But when they are done right they can be even more disturbing than the typical night time scares. This movie does feature a good one.

      Well if you ever get around to writing the review, I'd certainly love to read it.

    2. Oh, by the way, I've decided to start a horror-themed bloagathon for Halloween I think you might like. If you want to get involved you'll have to do so fast, because there's only 14 days until the world ends.


    3. Wow, sounds good. I'll look into it!

  3. I'd forgotten Madsen was in this movie. It's been a while since I've watched it. For me, Baker's first two Hellraiser films are on my top ten or fifteen horror films. I liked Nightbreed too, and Rawhead Rex, which maybe wasn't quite as good, but fun and had atmosphere (as best as I remember, it's been a while since I watched it).

    I was a Barker fan back in the late 80's and picked up his Books of Blood. He was one of the guest at one of the Dallas Cons, and I wanted to get his autograph pretty bad for one of my books, but unfortunately so did everyone else as the line was way too long. At least they had a showing of some of his art work, which was rather large in scale, and quite impressive.

    1. Yeah the first two Hellraiser flicks are awesome. Still need to revisit them this year. Nightbreed is an interesting flick. I like the whole idea but the execution is missing something. I hear the upcoming Blu-ray release is going to include a directors cut, so I'm really curious to see what Barker adds in.

      Yeah, his Books of Blood are really great reads. He's one of those that I really like his short stories more than his novel length stuff (granted I haven't read all of it yet).

  4. You hit the nail on the head when you said this is one of the best horror flicks of the 90s. The dread inducing atmosphere, disturbing finale, Todd's ominous presence, and Madsen's amazing performance all make this a winner.

    1. Yeah it just fires on all cylinders. I'm kicking myself for not checking it out earlier. It is one of those films that I remember folks talking a lot about back in the day, but for some reason the title just sounded dumb. Teach me to judge a film by its title.