In a recent episode on the Evolution Of Horror Patreon feed—a review of the top 50 horror performances—the hosts got to talking about Tony Todd’s portrayal of the title character in 1992’s Candyman.
I saw this movie in the theater when it first came out. Before it came out, actually—when I was in college, the campus film society would regularly host free preview screenings of new movies. You never knew what the movie was going to be; they would just announce that there would be a free preview this evening at the auditorium and then you would should up and find out what it was when it was starting. I saw some pretty crappy movies this way, but also some really good ones. That’s how I first saw Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (the theater was completely packed, with people sitting in the aisles), as well as Jacob’s Ladder, which was terrifying.
It is also how I saw Candyman and it blew me away. While I had read the Clive Barker story on which it is based, I had no idea the two were connected going in, and I am pretty sure it was only afterward that I found out. I recall thinking “This really seems like that Clive Barker story…”
Horror movies are nearly always better in a packed movie theater (sadly, an experience I never have anymore due to my own life decisions, where I live, and the huge changes over the last ten years to film distribution), and Candyman was pretty intense. I remember an edge-of-my-seat anxiousness while watching it, like anything could happen. I think a lot of that was due to the setting of the film; growing up in Indiana, Chicago was not that far away and always seemed like an intimidating presence. While I was never in the Cabrini Green projects, I had been through the area and seen them–as a sheltered white kid from 1980s suburbia, they seemed terrifying.
I think Candyman was also one of the first (maybe the first) mainstream movies I saw that really talked about (or even overtly hinted at) America’s legacy of racist violence. After a decade and a half of mindless slashers and wise-cracking boogeymen stalking teenagers, the Candyman was frightening on an entirely different level, while managing to somehow also be sympathetic and compelling.
Strangely, though, I think I have only seen Candyman all the way through maybe once since then, probably a VHS rental in the mid-1990s. Now I feel like I need to bump this movie way up on my list of movies to watch.