CANDYMAN (1992) Reviews and overview

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‘We dare you to say his name five times’
Candyman is a 1992 American supernatural horror film directed by Bernard Rose (Sx_tape; Frankenstein; Snuff Movie; Paperhouse) and is based on the short story ‘The Forbidden’ by Clive Barker, though the film’s scenario is switched from Liverpool, England, to the Cabrini–Green public housing development on Chicago’s Near North Side.

The movie stars Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd and Xander Berkeley.

The film’s notable soundtrack score was composed by Philip Glass (Dracula).

Candyman was met with critical acclaim and was a box office success. Followed by Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman 3: Day of the Dead. A belated “spiritual” sequel titled Candyman was released in 2021.

Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a graduate student conducting research for her thesis on urban legends. While interviewing freshmen about their superstitions, she hears about a local legend known as Candyman (Tony Todd). It contains many thematic elements similar to the most well-known urban legends, including endangered babysitters, spirits who appear in mirrors when fatally summoned, and maniac killers with unnatural deformities. 

Candyman can apparently be summoned by looking into a mirror and saying his name five times (similar to the Bloody Mary folkloric tale), whereupon he will murder the summoner with his hook-hand. Later that evening, Helen and her friend Bernadette jokingly call Candyman’s name into the mirror in Helen’s bathroom but nothing happens.

Discussing the legend with fellow academics, she uncovers an origin story. Candyman was the son of a slave, who became a well-known artist. After falling in love with a white woman who became pregnant, he was set upon by a lynch mob, who cut off his painting hand and replaced with a hook. He was smeared with honey (prompting the locals to chant ‘Candyman’) from a nearby apiary, and the bees stung him to death…

“Let’s not dick around here: Candyman is the finest American horror film of the 1990s […] It’s brainy, it’s atmospheric, and it’s spooky as hell, and for all these reasons and more, Candyman is one of the essential works of modern English-language horror.” Tim Brayton, Alternate Ending

” …a grimmer literal spook than Freddy Krueger and a menacing incarnation of the metaphorical ‘spook’ seen as a threat by white America…” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Director Bernard Rose does an impressive job of steering the actors, and also contributes visual flair. In the opening shot we see the city from above, focusing on its grid system, layer upon layer of straight lines. As the story develops, the visual theme of layering remains, reflecting the layered storyline that conjures up the past through the present, but the straight lines increasingly break down, the final scenes shot among ruins.” Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film

” …suffused with a surfeit of psychological elements that simply aren’t all that interesting (ie it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for Helen’s psychic link with Todd’s malevolent figure). The lack of any real scares ultimately confirms Candyman‘s place as a handsome yet ineffective adaptation, with Rose’s art-house sensibilities often at odds with the visceral demands of the horror genre.” David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews

“Rose’s dizzy, Jungle Fever-ish romanticism is juxtaposed against his cold, Cronenbergian dystopia to create Candyman‘s uniquely baroque use of modern urban blight, subtle political undercurrents, and hints of fallen woman melodrama. It creates a startlingly effective shocker that gains power upon further, sleepless-night reflection.” Eric Henderson, Slant magazine

” …Rose stages the suspense and horror with skill and panache, making this one of the best-sustained horror movies for some years.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out London

Candyman is an upper-register horror item that delivers the requisite shocks and gore but doesn’t cheat or cop out.” Variety

Latest release:

In the UK, Arrow Video released Candyman as a limited edition Blu-ray on October 29, 2018, in the UK, with new cover art by Gary Pullin.

The 1992 horror classic has been restored in 2K from the original negative, supervised by writer-director Bernard Rose (Sx_Tape; Frankenstein; Paperhouse) and director of photography Anthony B. Richmond.

The release also includes six lobby card reproductions, a reversible poster featuring two different artworks, a perfect-bound booklet with reproductions of Bernard Rose’s hand-painted storyboards, and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Blyth.

Buy UK Arrow Video Blu-ray:

Special features:

  • Audio commentary with writer-director Bernard Rose and actor Tony Todd (new)
  • Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (new)
  • Be My Victim – Interview with Tony Todd (new)
  • It Was Always You, Helen – Interview with Virginia Madsen (new)
  • The Writing on the Wall: The Production Design of Candyman – Interview with production designer Jane Ann Stewart (new)
  • Forbidden Flesh: The Makeup FX of Candyman – Interviews with special makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Gary J. Tunnicliffe and Mark Coulier (new)
  • A Story to Tell: Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden” – Writer Douglas E. Winter on Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood and Candyman’s source story
  • Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman – Critical analysis of the film with writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
  • Bernard Rose short films restored in HD:
    • Looking at Alice (30 min, 1978)
    • A Bomb With No Name on It (3 min, 1976)
    • The Wreckers (5 min)

Buy Blu-ray:

Meanwhile, in the USA Scream Factory is releasing Candyman as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on November 20, 2018. New cover art has been designed by Joel Robinson with the original poster on the reverse side.

The release features both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film. It has been restored in 4K from the original negative, supervised and approved by writer/director Bernard Rose and director of photography Anthony B. Richmond. The uncut version features HD inserts from an archival film print.

Disc 1: Theatrical cut:

  • Audio commentary with writer-director Bernard Rose and actor Tony Todd (new)
  • Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (new)
  • Audio commentary with director Bernard Rose, author Clive Barker, producer Alan Poul, and actors Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, and Kasi Lemmons
  • Audio commentary with director Bernard Rose, from The Movie Crypt Podcast hosted by filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch
  • Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos – Interviews with director Bernard Rose, producer Alan Poul, executive producer Clive Barker, and actors Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Kasi Lemmons
  • Clive Barker: Raising Hell – Interview with author Clive Barker
  • 2014 interview with actor Tony Todd
  • Bernard Rose’s storyboards
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV spots
  • Still gallery
  • Screenplay (BD-Rom)

Disc 2: Unrated cut:

  • Interview with actor Tony Todd (new)
  • Interview with actress Virginia Madsen (new)
  • Interview with actress Kasi Lemmons (new)
  • Interview with actor DeJuan Guy (new)
  • Interview with production designer Jane Ann Stewart (new)
  • Interviews with special makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, and Mark Coulier (new)
  • A Story to Tell: Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden” – Writer Douglas E. Winter on Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood and Candyman’s source story (new)
  • Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman – Critical analysis with writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. (new)

Buy Blu-ray:

candyman hook poster

Cast and characters:
Virginia Madsen … Helen Lyle
Tony Todd … Candyman
Xander Berkeley … Trevor Lyle
Vanessa Williams … Anne-Marie McCoy
Kasi Lemmons … Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh
DeJuan Guy … Jake
Gilbert Lewis … Detective Frank Valento
Stanley DeSantis … Dr Burke
Ted Raimi … Billy
Michael Culkin … Phillip Purcell
Bernard Rose … Archie Walsh
Eric Edwards … Harold
Rusty Schwimmer … Policewoman

Technical details:
1 hour 39 minutes
Audio: Dolby Stereo | Dolby Atmos
Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1

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