Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Candyman (Bernard Rose) 1992   

    Bernard Rose’s Candyman, based on a Clive Barker short story, is the mythic sort of horror / art film combination that is usually referenced in reviews of films that hew too closely to one of those elements to be successful as both. There’s plenty to be scared of in this film. Tony Todd plays the titular character with a menacing and imposing presence. In the original short story, Candyman was jaundiced and white, but the film’s decision to cast a black man pays dividends. The locale has also been shifted from Britain to Chicago’s Cabrini section, which ensures that not all of the reasons for Helen, the film’s protagonist, to be afraid are supernatural. As the lone white woman in a housing project, she is placing herself in danger regardless of the presence of spooks. Because of this, the film builds a tension that the audience can relate to, since much of the threat is grounded in reality. When the otherworldly Candyman strikes, the significant presence of blood and gore doesn’t revolt so much as it raises the tension that already existed. After we see blood spilled the fears that Helen has become grounded, even if she’s wrong about what she should be afraid of. It would almost feel racist if Helen weren’t given a black friend (played by director Kasi Lemmons) who shares her fears. As a result, the film’s prejudices feel borne out of differences in class, sex, and level of education.   

    The film’s art-house pretensions gain credence due to the subject matter. The opening sequence, with its Phillip Glass-penned theme and striking imagery, places Candyman into an otherworldliness that is extended when we aren’t sure that what’s on screen is real, and not just the delusions of the protagonist, whose sanity is in question. The film’s apparent directorial excesses, which include voiceover narration and some striking non-narrative shots of bees and skylines, are all placed in context here, so they don’t feel unnecessary. In fact they keep the film from sliding into the stupefyingly literal. Candyman proposes to Helen a world of exquisite pain, and Rose’s images justify that vision by showing us the inherent beauty in things that are generally regarded as grotesque. As a result the film sustains a mixture of class and disgust, and there’s a terrific scene where Helen is mortified to discover her high-priced condo is actually a converted housing project that drives that dichotomy home. Out of an excellent cast, Virginia Madsen stands out as Helen, imbuing her character with such poise and intelligence that when she is able to make the events of the film’s second half feel truly degrading. Since the movie is set in the world of academia and follows a grad student, neither its text about urban legends nor its perceptions of class feel preachy as much as unformed. Candyman is an exemplary example of the horror film’s potential, though subsequent films in the series have failed to retain a sliver of its intelligent appeal. 

* * * * 

Jeremy Heilman