Blerd Film Club: Candyman

Clive Barker wrote a short horror story titled The Forbidden about a grad student named Helen investigating the the strange graffiti of an urban legend named Candyman. The locals are reluctant to speak, but she believes Candyman is responsible for a string of murders. She keeps digging and comes face to face with the legend. This story would go on to inspire the film Candyman in 1992. Tony Todd portrays a supernatural killer that can only be rivaled by Freddy Kruger.  

Helen Lyle is a grad student researching urban legends in Chicago. One legend that comes up over and over again is that of Candyman. Overhearing her notes, Henrietta and Kitty, two custodians at the university, provide her with more information. They tell her that Candyman is responsible for the murder of a woman in the Cabrini-Green projects. Helen enlists Bernadette, another graduate student to help her investigate. They toy with calling Candyman in the bathroom, but stop short of calling his name five times and bringing his wrath as the story says. 

The two visit Cabrini-Green and discover what seems to be the hideout of Candyman. Murals decorate the room and candy wrappers cover the floor, some filled with razor blades. Attempting to leave the two meet Anne-Marie who tells them about the murder of Ruthie Jean by Candyman. She warns them to leave the story alone and don't bring trouble, but we know Helen doesn't listen. 

Later that night Helen learns the story of Candyman from Professor Purcell. Candyman was a freeman born the son of slaves. His name was Daniel Robitaille and he made a fortune after the Civil War through shoemaking and painting portraits. Since he was well educated he had no problem blending into high society, except for his race. He was hired to paint a portrait of a white woman, and fell in love with her. The two began a secret love affair which caused her to get pregnant. Her father and a group of other white people hunted Daniel down, sawed off his hand and covered him in stolen honey watching as he was stung to death by bees. After they burnt his body, the ashes were spread on land that would become Cabrini-Green.

Helen returns to Cabrini-Green alone because Bernadette has had enough. There she meets a young boy Jake who warns her that Candyman is dangerous. She pressures him and he eventually leads her through the projects. They make note of a massive pile of wooden furniture. Jake informs her they're having a bonfire for a party. Jake brings her to a building where Candyman supposedly cut off the penis of a young boy. 

Inside, the restroom is covered in graffiti and blood. Helen is confronted by a gang member who calls himself Candyman who knocks her out. She reports it to the police and he's arrested for the murder of Ruthie Jean, the young boy and the assault on Hellen. That's where it all starts, because Helen is confronted in the parking lot by the real Candyman who tells her he's going to kill everyone she cares about because she played with his name and gave his legacy to some nobody. Then he quickly makes up for not being in the first 45 minutes of his own film.

Despite this being a slasher flick, there's a very important lesson that people should follow. Just listen to Black people, a very simple lesson. Multiple Black people told Helen to stay away from the mythos. Henrietta and Kitty, the cleaning ladies told her to leave it alone. Bernadette, her best friend, told her to leave it alone. Anne-Marie told her, leave it alone. Jake told her to leave it alone, the gang members, told her to leave it alone. Why didn't you leave it alone Helen? 

I think that's one of the things that made the first two Candyman films so great. These characters had every opportunity not to die if they had just listened. Candyman was entirely okay just leaving Helen alone until she started accusing other people of being Candyman. The fact that every told her what would happen, and then it happened. There's even a moment when Jake lets her know they're building a bonfire for Candyman and she doesn't even ask why.

I don't care for horror films outside of the occasional psychological thriller. But, Candyman does something that other films in the genre failed, and still fail to do. It doesn't assume that the viewer is stupid. What I mean by that is the film isn't reliant on blood and gore to provide horror. Instead we're given horror through history, location and discussion. There's a scene where Helen crawls through a hole in the wall and comes out in a room full of candy, razor blades and a portrait of Candyman's face devouring the hole she crawled through. In any other film the monster would pop out and try to kill her. Instead we're left to take in the idea that this Candyman might be real. It's not as simple a story as other horror films. The story of Candyman's origin is detailed and both the past and present deal with race and socioeconomic standings that other films just wouldn't touch.

There's this stereotype of Black people watching horror films and saying "I wouldn't have done that," and to some extent, it is true. However, that same stereotype is what makes Candyman great because we actively watch it play out. We see Black people actively say "I wouldn't do that," and then come out okay. Despite all the death, murder and mayhem we can watch Candyman and feel like we'd come out okay because we chose not to go into spooky hideouts and play with a man's name.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Blerd Film Club: Candyman Blerd Film Club: Candyman Reviewed by Darrell S. on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 Rating: 5

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