It’s hard to believe that Candyman was released 25 years ago this month! From the first time I saw the film, I knew it deserved a spot on my list of favorite horror movies- but now it’s a horror classic. Way to make a girl feel old. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the movie since it was released, but it’s been several years since I last watched, so I was excited to see it again and find out how I feel about it 25 years later.
After watching Candyman again, I have to say that I’m impressed with how well the movie has held up after all these years. It is still legitimately scary, and that’s saying a lot considering that there are several movies that I thought were terrifying years ago that just don’t have the same effect on me now.
Candyman also accomplishes things that few, if any, movies before or after it have done: It’s an urban legend that takes place in the inner city, and the movie features an African American villain. Horror has, unfortunately, always lacked strong black characters, but not only is the character of Candyman not portrayed as a victim despite his tragic backstory, Tony Todd has also become a renowned horror icon thanks to the role.
There are some fantastically gruesome kills in the film thanks to the character’s hook in place of a hand, but I’ve always thought of it as a beautiful, haunting story. Once Helen (Virginia Madsen) summons the character by saying his name five times in the mirror and has her attacker, who was pretending to be Candyman, arrested, the real Candyman appears to her and tells her that she is the reason no one believes in him and that innocent blood must be shed. It is implied that Helen is the reincarnation of his lover, and she bears a striking resemblance to the woman in the mural on the wall in the rundown apartment. Candyman wants Helen to surrender to him, mind, body and soul, and some of the sequences with the two of them are dreamlike. Maybe I’m just weird, but I find the story not only tragic, but also pretty damn romantic.
There are also some fascinating behind-the-scenes secrets from Candyman:
- “Sweets to the sweet” is actually a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- Real bees were used in the scene where Candyman opens his mouth and bees spill out as he is about to kiss Helen.
- Tony Todd wore a mouth guard to prevent the bees from going down his throat.
- Virginia Madsen is allergic to bees, so an ambulance was on set during the filming of this sequence.
- Virginia Madsen claims she was actually hypnotized for the otherworldly sequences where Candyman asks her “Be my victim.”
It gives me a strange sort of comfort to know that Candyman still affects me in the same ways it did the first time I saw it and it is in no danger of being replaced on my list of favorite horror movies of all time. I will also tell you that not even once in the past 25 years have I been brave enough to gaze into the mirror and repeat Candyman five times, and I doubt I ever will.