He Mixes it With Blood and Makes the World Taste ‘Hood: Candyman

03/06/2013 4:00 AM |

Candyman (1992)
Directed by Bernard Rose
March 8, 12:05am, at Nitehawk

One thing that makes this horror movie so compelling is that it’s basically a variation on the Jewish Golem myth. Its central urban legend is a variation on a familiar motif: a man with a meat-hook appears in mirrors whenever giggly girls and horny lovers say his name five times—and guts whoever spoke it “from groin to gullet” (the story is based on a Clive Barker story…). Candyman’s myth spreads throughout Chicago, filmed by writer/director Rose as an urban beehive in a handful of stirring bird’s-eye views. But Candyman (Tony Todd) is real, and supposedly lives in Cabrini-Green’s projects, keeping imaginative children, imprudent lovers, and superstitious black residents in check.

Candyman essentially protects the ghetto’s populace by keeping them afraid and incurious, reinforcing the invisible color barrier that separates Cabrini-Green from nearby affluent white residents. That barrier threatens to collapse when self-involved academic Helen (Virginia Madsen at her hotsy-totsiest) tries to demystify Candyman’s presence. She first mistakenly assumes that a presumptuous gangbanger that’s taken Candyman’s name is the man she’s looking for, but soon discovers just how mistaken she is after she blacks out, wakes up in a pool of blood, and finds a severed dog’s head in the room next-door. (Again, Barker!)

When the film gets into Helen’s tacky psychosexual cat-and-mouse game, it loses its way. But for a while, the tawdry allure of a black Golem is palpable. Phillip Glass’s score may understandably be the best part of the film, but Candyman is still the best Clive Barker adaptation because it’s an essentially good story that also happens to have been based on a story by that Hellraiser guy.

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