Candyman (1992 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byBernard Rose
Produced by
Screenplay byBernard Rose
Based onThe Forbidden
by Clive Barker
Music byPhilip Glass
CinematographyAnthony B. Richmond
Edited byDan Rae
Distributed byTriStar Pictures[1]
Release date
  • September 11, 1992 (1992-09-11) (TIFF)
  • October 16, 1992 (1992-10-16) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$8–9 million[1]
Box office$25.7 million (US)[2]

Candyman is a 1992 American slasher film written and directed by Bernard Rose, and starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, and Vanessa Williams. Based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, the film follows a graduate student in Chicago completing a thesis on urban legends, which leads her to the legend of "Candyman", the ghost of an artist and son of a slave who was murdered in the late 19th century.

The film came to fruition after a chance meeting between director Rose and Clive Barker, who had recently completed his own film adaptation of Nightbreed (1990). Rose expressed interest in Barker's story "The Forbidden", and Barker agreed to license the rights. Where Barker's story revolved around themes of the British class system in contemporary Liverpool, Rose chose to refit the story to Cabrini-Green public housing development in Chicago and instead focus on themes of race and social class in inner-city United States.

Candyman was released theatrically by TriStar and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment on October 16, 1992, and grossed over $25 million domestically. It was followed by two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999). Candyman is regarded in some critical circles as a contemporary classic of horror cinema.[3]


Helen Lyle, a Chicago graduate student who is researching urban legends, hears of a local story about the Candyman. The legend claims that Candyman can be summoned by saying his name five times while facing a mirror, whereupon he will kill the summoner with a hook jammed on the bloody stump of his right arm. She encounters two cleaning ladies who tell her about Ruthie Jean, a resident in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project who they claim was killed by Candyman. Helen's research turns up 25 other murders in the area similar to Ruthie Jean's. Later that evening, Helen and her friend Bernadette Walsh, skeptical of Candyman's existence, call Candyman's name into the mirror in Helen's bathroom; nothing happens.

Helen learns from Professor Philip Purcell that Candyman was the son of a slave who became prosperous after developing a system for mass-producing shoes during the Civil War. He grew up in a polite society and became a well-known artist, sought after for his talent in producing portraits. After falling in love with and fathering a child with a white woman he was hired to paint in 1890, Candyman was set upon by a lynch mob hired by his lover's father; they cut off his painting hand and replaced it with a hook. He was smeared with honey stolen from an apiary, attracting hungry bees which stung him to death. His corpse was burned in a pyre and his ashes were scattered across the area where Cabrini-Green now stands.

Helen decides to write a thesis on how the residents of Cabrini-Green use the Candyman legend to cope with the hardships of living there. She and Bernadette enter the housing project to visit the scene of Ruthie Jean's murder. There, they meet Anne-Marie McCoy, one of the residents, and a young boy named Jake, who tells Helen the disturbing story of a child who was castrated in a public restroom by Candyman. While Helen explores the run-down restroom, she is attacked by a gang leader who carries a hook and has assumed Candyman's moniker in order to enhance his "street cred". Helen survives the assault and is able to identify her attacker to the police, who believe him to be responsible for the killings attributed to Candyman. Helen tells Jake that Candyman is a made-up character that isn't real.

In a parking garage, Helen is confronted by the real Candyman, who explains that since Helen has discredited his legend, he must "shed innocent blood" to perpetuate belief in himself and continue his existence. Helen blacks out and wakes up in Anne-Marie's apartment, covered in blood. Anne-Marie, whose dog has been decapitated and whose baby Anthony is missing, attacks Helen; in the midst of defending herself, Helen is arrested by the police. Trevor, Helen's husband, bails her out of jail, but Candyman appears to Helen again and cuts her neck, causing her to bleed to the point of unconsciousness. Bernadette appears at the apartment and is murdered by Candyman, who frames Helen for the murder. Helen is sedated and placed in a psychiatric hospital.

After a month's stay at the hospital, Helen is interviewed by a psychologist in preparation for her upcoming trial. She attempts to prove her innocence by summoning Candyman, who kills the psychologist and allows Helen to escape. She returns home and briefly confronts Trevor, who is now living with Stacey, one of his female undergraduate students. Helen then flees to Cabrini-Green to confront Candyman and locate Anthony, finding murals depicting Candyman's lynching. Helen tracks down Candyman, who tells her to surrender to him to ensure the baby's safety. Offering Helen immortality, Candyman opens his coat to reveal a ribcage wreathed in bees and kisses her. After Candyman vanishes with Anthony, Helen finds a mural of Candyman alongside his lover Caroline Sullivan, who bears a striking resemblance to Helen. This and a message left by Candyman imply that Helen is a reincarnation of Sullivan.

Candyman promises to release Anthony if Helen helps him incite fear among Cabrini-Green's residents. However, in order to feed his own legend, Candyman reneges and attempts to immolate them all in a bonfire when it is lit by the residents. Helen manages to save Anthony while Candyman is destroyed in the fire, but Helen ultimately succumbs to severe burns. The residents, including Anne-Marie and Jake, pay their respects at her funeral, with Jake tossing Candyman's hook into her grave. Afterwards, Trevor (in grief and guilt over Helen's death) faces his bathroom mirror and says Helen's name five times. As a result, Helen's vengeful spirit is summoned and kills Trevor with Candyman's hook, leaving his body to be found by Stacey. In Candyman's former lair, a new mural of Helen with her hair ablaze is seen, showing she has now entered folklore.




The change of setting necessitated a change to certain elements for the film. According to journalist Steve Bogira, one source of inspiration may have been a pair of articles he wrote for the Chicago Reader in 1987 and 1990 about the murder of Ruthie Mae McCoy, a resident of Chicago's Abbot Homes housing project.[4] In 1987, McCoy had been killed by an intruder who entered her apartment through an opening behind the bathroom's medicine cabinet.[5][6]


There was some controversy that the film was depicting racism and racial stereotypes. According to Rose, "I had to go and have a whole set of meetings with the NAACP, because the producers were so worried, and what they said to me when they'd read the script was 'Why are we even having this meeting? You know, this is just good fun.' Their argument was 'Why shouldn't a black actor be a ghost? Why shouldn't a black actor play Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter? If you're saying that they can't be, it's really perverse. This is a horror movie. . .'"[7] According to Madsen, "I was and am now worried about how people will respond. I don't think Spike Lee will like this film."[8]


Although Barker's short story is set in his native Liverpool, Rose decided "that the film would be much better done in the U.S." Assisted by members of the Illinois Film Commission, Rose scouted locations in Chicago and found Cabrini Green "an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear."[9] Rose once said in an interview with The Independent that he found filming in Chicago easier than filming in England.[7]


Eddie Murphy was the original choice for the role of Candyman, but the filmmakers could not afford him.[10] According to Todd, "I met with Bernard Rose, who's a brilliant mind and a great director, and I wanted to say it was a hire. But I just... people kept telling me, 'Oh you'll never be able to shake this,' and I said, 'You know, I'm gonna do the best I can and go away from that.' I knew when I read it, and I saw the bees and the stuff, I knew things like that haven't been filmed before, so that was interesting. And I've always wanted to find my own personal Phantom of the Opera."[11] Todd negotiated a bonus of $1,000 for every bee sting he suffered during filming; he was stung 23 times.[12]

Virginia Madsen was friends with director Bernard Rose and his then-wife, Alexandra Pigg, and Madsen was originally to play the role of Helen's friend Bernie while Pigg was to play Helen.[13] The choice was then made to make the character of Bernie African American so Madsen lost the part.[13] As shooting was about to commence, Pigg discovered that she was pregnant so the role of Helen was offered to Madsen.[13] Had Madsen been unable to step into the role, producer Alan Poul was partial to Sandra Bullock as Helen.[14]


The film's score was composed by Philip Glass. According to Glass, "It has become a classic, so I still make money from that score, get checks every year."[15] Tony Todd confirmed in an interview with IGN that a limited edition featuring 7500 copies of the film's soundtrack was released in February 2015.[11]



Candyman had its world premiere at the 1992 Toronto International Film Festival, playing as part of its Midnight Madness line-up.[16] It was released on October 16, 1992, in the United States, where it made $25.7 million.[2]

Home media[edit]

It was released on home video in February 1993 by Columbia Tri-Star Home Video.[17] A special edition DVD was released in August 2004.[18]

Candyman was first released on Blu-ray format in Australia on September 1, 2011 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[19] The same Blu-ray version was made available in the United Kingdom on October 10, 2011.[20] The set contains DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 for its original English track, as well as standard DTS 2.0 surround for its additional French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish tracks, with multiple subtitle options including English SDH and no special features. The film was again released again in Australia from Shock Records via their Cinema Cult subsidiary with the only addition being a slipcover.[21] In Germany, a "Limited Edition" Digibook was made available on May 27, 2016 and was, at the time, the most definitive Blu-ray edition to date. It contains both German and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, German and English subtitles, and, special features including audio commentary, featurettes, storyboards and original trailer.[22] A standard edition set was released in Germany on July 29, 2016.[23] Several standard Blu-ray editions eventually became available in France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Denmark, Finland and Sweden throughout 2011 and 2012.

On July 20, 2018, it was announced that Candyman would be released on Blu-ray in a "Collector's Edition" on November 20, 2018 in the United States via Scream Factory, a subsidiary of Shout! Factory. The set contains a newly remastered 2K restoration from a new 4K scan, as well as a number of new special features including an unrated cut, commentaries and featurettes.[24] The following week, on July 27, 2018, Arrow Films announced a "Limited Edition" Blu-ray set in the United Kingdom, which includes the same scan and special features as the Scream Factory edition; it was confirmed for this edition that, for the first time, the film would contain a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The set includes a collector's booklet, 6 lobby cards, a reversible poster, and reversible cover artwork; it was released on October 29, 2018.[25]


Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 74% of 53 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 6.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Though it ultimately sacrifices some mystery in the name of gory thrills, Candyman is a nuanced, effectively chilling tale that benefits from an interesting premise and some fine performances."[26] Allmovie praised the film, calling it "haunting, intelligent and poetic" and "the finest Barker adaptation ever committed to film".[27] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Elements of the plot may not hold up in the clear light of day, but that didn't bother me much. What I liked was a horror movie that was scaring me with ideas and gore, instead of simply with gore."[28] Janet Maslin of The New York Times compared it to "an elaborate campfire story" with an "unusually high interest in social issues".[29] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called the film Clive Barker's "worst to date"—an ambitious but pretentious film that "quickly becomes as repellent as it is preposterous."[30] Variety called it "an upper-register horror item that delivers the requisite shocks and gore but doesn't cheat or cop out."[31]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[32]


The film came in at number 75 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[33]

The character Candyman came in at number 8 on Bloody Disgusting's "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"[34] and ranked the same on Ugo's "Top Eleven Slashers".[35] The actor who played Candyman, Tony Todd, made #53 on Retrocrush's "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances" for his role.[36]

The film appears in two sections of's "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"[37] and "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings".[38]

In 2001, the American Film Institute nominated this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[39]

Candyman (2020 film)[edit]

In September 2018, it was announced Jordan Peele was in talks to produce a sequel of the 1992 film through his Monkeypaw Productions,[40] of which Todd stated in a 2018 interview with Nightmare on Film Street, "I'd rather have him do it, someone with intelligence, who's going to be thoughtful and dig into the whole racial makeup of who Candyman is and why he existed in the first place."[41] In November 2018, it was confirmed that Peele would produce the film with Universal and MGM and will partner with Win Rosenfeld to co-produce the film, while Nia DaCosta signed on as director.[42] The film will serve as a "spiritual sequel", taking place back in the new gentrified Cabrini Green, where the old housing projects development once stood in Chicago. Filming was due to commence in spring 2019.[43]

In January 2019, it was reported that Lakeith Stanfield of FX's Atlanta and Sorry to Bother You fame, would possibly star in the film but not as the main titular character, rather as a visual artist named Anthony who takes on an interest seeking the legend of the Candyman, similar to Helen Lyle's character played by Virginia Madsen. There is still no word as to who will be starring in the film and if Todd or any past cast will reprise their role.[44][45] However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Todd spoke of Peele, stating: "I know he's a fan... I'm hoping I will appear in the film in some form of fashion. Wouldn't that make sense? But it's Hollywood, so I won't take it personally if for some reason it doesn't work out." He added, "If this new one is successful, it will shed light back on the original. I think the subject matter is more important than any individuals. And I mean that."[46] In February 2019, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was in talks to play the titular character.[47] In response to the news, Todd gracefully offered his blessings, passing the torch over Twitter, stating: "Cheers to Candyman, a wonderful character I've lived with for 25 years. He's brought grace and glory and a beautiful boatload of friends & family, I'm honored that the spirit of Daniel Robitaille & Cabrini Green rises again. Truth to power! Blessings to the cast & crew".[48]

If Beale Street Could Talk actress Teyonah Parris was cast opposite in playing Stanfield's character Anthony's girlfriend.[49]


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  2. ^ a b "Candyman (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
  3. ^ Badley 1996, p. 142.
  4. ^ Bogira, Steve (3 March 2014). "How a Story About the Horrors of Housing Projects Became Part of a Horror Movie". Chicago Reader. 43 (27).
  5. ^ Bogira, Steve (4 September 1987). "They Came in Through the Bathroom Mirror: A Murder in the Projects". Chicago Reader. 16 (46): 2.
  6. ^ Bogira, Steve (12 July 1990). "Cause of Death: What killed Ruthie Mae McCoy—A Bullet in the Chest, or Life in the Projects?". Chicago Reader. 19 (39).
  7. ^ a b Rose, Bernard (March 13, 1993). "INTERVIEW / The sweet smell of excess: Bernard Rose has an oral fixation: Kevin Jackson talked to him about the appetites behind his new horror film, Candyman". The Independent. Archived from the original on December 26, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  8. ^ Lovell, Glenn (29 October 1992). "Black Slasher 'Candyman' Draws Fire Over 'racist' Depictions". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Horrorella Talks Tolstoy, Beethoven and Candyman with Writer-Director Bernard Rose!". Ain't It Cool News. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  10. ^ Evans, Bradford (7 April 2011). "The Lost Roles of Eddie Murphy". Splitsider. Archived from the original on 23 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b IGN (24 February 2015). "Tony Todd On His Career - From Candyman to VANish" – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Phil Hoad (25 June 2019). "How we made Candyman: 'I got a $1,000 bonus for every bee sting'". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Caprilozzi, Christine (2012-12-14). "Twenty Year Retrospective of Candyman with Virginia Madsen". Horror News Network. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  14. ^ Wood, Jennifer M. (2017-10-16). "15 Fascinating Facts About Candyman". Mental Floss. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  15. ^ Asp, Jon (January 31, 2014). "Philip Glass: 'Without terror, there's no learning' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on December 26, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  16. ^ Wilner, Norman (August 13, 1992). "Midnight Madness at the movies". Toronto Star. pp. B4.
  17. ^ Wheeler, Drew (1993-02-06). "Marquee Values". Billboard. 105 (6): 60.
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  28. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 16, 1992). "Candyman". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 1, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  29. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 16, 1992). "Candyman (1992)". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Thomas, Kevin (October 16, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : Ambitious 'Candyman' Serves Large Doses of Repellent Gore". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  31. ^ "Review: 'Candyman'". Variety. 1992. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  32. ^ "CinemaScore".
  33. ^ "100 Scariest Movie Moments". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007.
  34. ^ Solomon, Brian (5 February 2009). "13 Days of Friday the 13th: The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History".
  35. ^ Ugo - "Top Eleven Slashers" Archived 2009-02-25 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "retroCRUSH: The World's Greatest Pop Culture Place".
  37. ^ "Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes".
  38. ^ "Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings".
  39. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  40. ^ "Jordan Peele in Talks to Remake Clive Barker's 'Candyman' [Exclusive] - Bloody Disgusting". Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  41. ^ "[Exclusive Interview] Horror Icon Tony Todd Talks HELL FEST and Gives His Blessing To CANDYMAN Remake | Nightmare on Film Street - Horror Movie Podcast, News and Reviews". Nightmare on Film Street - Horror Movie Podcast, News and Reviews. 2018-09-26. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
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  44. ^ "Lakeith Stanfield Is Reportedly Being Eyed To Star In 'Candyman' Reboot From Jordan Peele And Nia DaCosta". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  45. ^ Miss2Bees (2019-01-29). "Lakeith Stanfield May be Casted for 'Candyman' Reboot". The Source. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  46. ^ "'Candyman' star Tony Todd hasn't spoken with Jordan Peele about appearing in sequel". Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  47. ^ Kroll, Justin. "Jordan Peele's 'Candyman' Finds Its Star (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  48. ^ Squires, John (2019-02-27). "Tony Todd Gracefully Offers His Blessings to the New 'Candyman'". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  49. ^ Squires, John (2019-03-25). "'Candyman' Director Nia DaCosta Clarifies That Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is Not Replacing Tony Todd…?". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved 2019-04-02.


  • Badley, Linda (1996). Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-29716-8.

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