Spoilers for “Candyman” (1992) and “Candyman” (2021) ahead.
In 1992, the horror movie “Candyman” was released. While not overly horrific to watch, it was gory with tons of blood. Produced by Clive Barker, and based on his short story “The Forbidden,” “Candyman” is about an urban legend. The 1992 version starts off with Christmas-like chants with creepy undertones. Bees appear soon after the opening credits finish. While the 1992 version seems to be a bit cheesy compared to today’s horror movies, it has a realistic quality to it. Using the slums of Chicago and the atrocity of the murder rates in Cabrini-Green as the backdrop, “Candyman” is a fitting movie.
The Original Story
Helen, played by Virginia Madsen, is a white graduate student doing a thesis on the urban legend of Candyman in the Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago. She interviews people and goes to the slums to do more research. In the 1992 version, Candyman solely murders African American people living in the slums; meanwhile, in the 2021 version, Candyman kills white people who say his name in the mirror.
The story goes if you say Candyman’s name five times in the mirror before turning the light off, he will appear and kill the person who said his name, along with any witnesses. While several people in both movies do not believe this and brush it off, others are terrified and fully believe it. For the latter, the Candyman is a mythical person that can be blamed for all the killings going on in Cabrini-Green.
Helen and her African American friend Bernadette explore the Chicago housing project, which is filled with dilapidated, graffiti-covered walls. The slum area freaks Bernadette out but intrigues Helen. She photographs the walls after seeing a picture of Candyman on them, in addition to writing that says, “sweets to the sweet.” Rumor has it that Candyman gives candy out to the kids, and white people have found razor blades in the candy.
Back in 1890, Candyman was an African American son of a slave, who grew up and became a well-known artist. A white man hired him to do a portrait of his daughter, but they fell in love, and he got her pregnant. The father hired men to kill him, and, in a twisted bit of creativity, they cut his right hand off and covered him in honey so bees would sting him; lastly, they burned his body on a pyre, and the ashes were scattered all over what would become Cabrini-Green.
Helen gets attacked by a fake Candyman, who is actually the gang leader of the Overlords. While the cops believe the gang leader is responsible for all the murders, the real Candyman appears to Helen, taking over her body and mind with hypnosis. Helen ends up killing the Rottweiler of one of the only people who spoke to her about Candyman while she was in Cabrini-Green — Anne-Marie, mother of the baby Anthony. Anthony gets taken by the Candyman, and the cops think Helen is to blame. Helen goes crazy because of the Candyman, going into a trance and waking up in odd places after she has killed. After she gets home from the police station, Bernadette goes to check on Helen, and Helen ends up killing her in the living room.
Helen gets committed to a psychiatric facility, and a month later, she gets to see the doctor. They had been pumping Helen full of high doses of Thorazine, but she is finally being weaned off the drug.
To prove to the doctor that she is not crazy, she calls for the Candyman five times in the mirror, where he appears and kills the doctor. Helen escapes and makes a deal with the Candyman to take her instead of the baby Anthony. Cabrini-Green is all set to throw a huge bonfire, and Helen, Anthony and the Candyman are all inside. Helen saves Anthony and returns him to Anne-Marie before she succumbs to bad burns from the fire and dies. The story ends with Helen’s cheating husband, who was a professor at her college, saying her name in the bathroom mirror; Helen comes back to kill him with a hook, just like Candyman.
The Plot Thickens
Fast forward 29 years to the 2021 version of “Candyman.” “Candyman” by Sammy Davis Jr. is playing in the background of a flashback. There is a train, as well as a cartoonish feel to the beginning. The movie starts with a scene in the projects as a young boy named William goes to do his laundry, located in a separate building. When white police officers show this African American boy a flyer reading, “Have you seen this man?,” William turns away from them and walks into the laundry building. Creepy feelings go through you as you watch William enter the door of the laundry room after looking back and seeing a big hole at the end of the hallway. A man named Sherman comes through the hole in the wall and offers him candy. When William screams, the police officers hear him and run into the building. They kill Sherman, but he is not the Candyman.
In the present, Trina, an art dealer living with her artist boyfriend, Anthony McCoy, gets a visit from her brother Troy and his boyfriend. They chitchat, and Troy tells the scary story of Helen, Cabrini-Green and the Candyman. Anthony Googles information about Helen. Following her story, he searches the slums and meets up with a gentleman, William. William gives Anthony information about Candyman, and Anthony gets stung by a bee while he is there.
Later, at Anthony’s art showing, a white art critic speaks badly about his art, so he gets drunk and leaves. An art dealer and a woman are about to get it on in front of Anthony’s art, which is a mirror with paintings inside it. But then, the woman says “Candyman” five times, and he appears, killing her and then the dealer. Trina opens the gallery and finds them; the situation is all over the news.
Then, Anthony begins to act funny and obsessed. He goes to the art critic’s apartment to talk about how his fame has skyrocketed due to the murders. However, his bee sting is looking bad — like his skin is falling off — and he starts to hallucinate in her apartment. The critic startles him when coming out of the bathroom, so he takes off, and the scene ends with the camera zooming out of her apartment as she is murdered.
At a special dinner Trina is having with big-wig art people, everyone hears about the critic’s murder on their phones, and Anthony leaves suddenly. He goes to William and asks for more information about the Candyman, receiving the same backstory as Helen in the process.
He finally seeks help for both his hand, which is now rotting away, as well as an infection that is going up one side of his body, turning it into a honeycomb pattern. While there, the hospital informs Anthony that he was born there, but he thinks they are incorrect. Anthony goes to his momma’s house where the audience discovers that he is the baby that Helen saved from the 1992 version. Anne-Marie tells Anthony the Candyman’s story and how everyone vowed never to speak his name. However, someone broke the promise, so the Candyman found him again.
Trina leaves in search of the Candyman, who turns out to be William, and he is currently trying to turn Anthony into the next Candyman. The movie ends with Trina killing William, and the police officers kill Anthony and arrest her. Threatened with a false arrest, Trina tells the police officer that she will tell him anything he wants her to say if she can see her face in the mirror. She calls upon the Candyman five times, and he returns, killing the police officers and letting her out. When she looks him in the face, he is the original Candyman, and he tells her, “Tell everyone.”
While neither of the “Candyman” movies were particularly scary to me, they both had a gory element to them and made me jump a couple of times. The films were more akin to psychological thrillers because they hit so close to home, and the 2021 version being a continuation of the 1992 version was interesting because of the twists they added. Overall, they were thought-provoking but not what I would look for in a scary Halloween movie.