Friday, October 30, 2015

Candyman


   All I knew about Candyman before watching it was that it had Tony Todd as the eponymous villain, a hook-handed killer spawned from urban legends, and Virginia Madsen in it as the lead protagonist. I figured it would've easily fit alongside other popular horror flicks like A Nightmare on Elm St. or Child's Play. Yet I should've known better. With Clive Barker attached, and it being based on one of his works, I should've known this would be anything but conventional. This is right up there with Hellraiser. Candyman is a thoroughly surprising, unique, and disturbing psychological terror trip. I'm just surprised I hadn't seen it sooner.

  Unlike most slasher flicks, which this really isn't- most of the movie, at least the first full two acts are dedicated to investigating the legend of Candyman. Madsen's character, Helen Lyle is doing research for a thesis paper, along with a friend and colleague of her's. They end up in some really scary neighborhoods tracking down leads about Candyman. He's widely believed in as if he was a completely real killer. The movie freely admits he's not, and it seems to stick to that logic for a while. We start to wonder if the danger of perpetuating an urban myth like this is where the true horror of this scare-flick lies, and by and large that's still true... but Candyman does show up.

   "Believe in me- be my victim!" he insists, something which any other horror villain wouldn't waste time on. But Candyman, both the character and the movie itself, are different. They're focused on belief and myth, the line between fantasy and reality. Can something be real simply because it's believed in? This movie would have you believe so. Genre mainstay Tony Todd is simply fantastic as Candyman. In a movie full of surprisingly great performances, he manages to steal the show every time he's on screen. There's a tragic hue to his character, as well as a darkly romantic one. I would've liked to have seen this cultivated a bit more, but the movie goes nuts in the third act- flying well off the rails before it ends.

   The scariest part about Candyman isn't always Candyman himself, instead it's the idea of having your life fall apart around you and be helpless to do anything about it. Like going insane. Bodies start to pile up around Helen, and before long she's knee-deep in blood and guts with all the obvious clues pointing towards her. This of course, can all be traced back to when she incanted Candyman's name in the mirror five times. We're all familiar with junk like that. For me, it was Bloody Mary. I was raised in the Christian faith where stories about demons and devils were taught as history and fact. So, you're never quite sure what might be all too real when you're 7 years old. I was taught better than to mess with stuff I didn't understand, like... summoning Bloody Mary. It's a lesson Helen could've used pretty severely.

  Despite your stance on religion or faith, I'm sure we can all agree Bloody Mary is a load of bunk. But we live in the real world, and Helen is a character in a movie. A little belief, and a little blood, and Candyman is as real to her as any other supporting character. Her descent into madness is wild and gory and we feel really sorry for her every step of the way. Eventually she reminds me of Sarah Connor trying to convince people that Terminators are real. This is short-lived however once she invokes Candyman to prove a psychiatrist wrong. Of course, I thought- this is the do-or-die moment. Either Candyman shows, or he doesn't and Helen really is crazy. This one moment would affect the rest of the movie and firmly decide whether this was a psychological thriller, or a balls-to-bone horror flick.Well... suffice it to say, this is definitely horror, and a sleek, gritty, visually thrilling one at that.

   It doesn't have as much to say as Hellraiser did, which suggested that sometimes the real monsters aren't the freaks with pins in their heads and blood all over them. It might just be another regular old homicidal human being. Candyman feels like it has something important to say, and it almost gets there as it starts breaking down the social injustice revolving around the inner-city projects and ghettos which the Candyman legend seems to come from. But, unfortunately, all of that falls by the wayside after a certain point so that Helen's life can take center stage as it horrifically self-destructs. So what's the point here? What's the message? Even a flavor-of-the-week slasher flick can say something, even if it's just retreading the same message about survival and self-confidence.

   Candyman is too concerned with it's style and it's story to wonder if it builds up to anything significant. It's scary, and unnerving- certainly disturbing as well... but that's all. Is that enough? Maybe. I wish Candyman had some sort of sick lesson to be learned. I'm not sure there is one though. One thing can be certain though... be careful what you repeat in the mirror five times, cause you just never know. Maybe that is the message of Candyman- don't mess with things you don't understand, and be careful what you believe in. I can buy that. When all is said and done Candyman is more unique than I was ever told it was, and more interesting than I was led to believe. It's a mysterious, nightmarish thriller with a dash of psychological terror, and a heady helping of blood of guts to boot. I loved it, a lot. Great flick. Very recommended.

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