Candyman (1992 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byBernard Rose
Produced by
Screenplay byBernard Rose
Based on"The 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$25.8 million (US)[2]

Candyman is a 1992 American supernatural horror 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 Chicago graduate student who was completing a thesis on the urban legends and folklore which led her to the legend of the "Candyman", the ghost of an artist and son of a slave who was murdered in the late 19th century for his relationship with a white painter's daughter.

The film came to fruition after a chance meeting between Rose and Barker who 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 the themes of the British class system in contemporary Liverpool, Rose chose to refit the story to Cabrini-Green's public housing development in Chicago and instead focus on the themes of race and social class in the inner-city United States.

Candyman was released theatrically by TriStar Pictures and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment on October 16, 1992 and grossed over $25 million in the US. It was followed by two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999), with a "spiritual sequel" of the same name that is set for release in 2021. Candyman is regarded in some critical circles as a contemporary classic of horror cinema.[3]


Helen Lyle is a semiotics graduate student in Chicago who is researching urban legends. She hears a local story about the Candyman who can be summoned by saying his name five times to a mirror, causing him to appear and kill the summoner with a hook that was attached to the bloody stump of his right arm. Helen meets two cleaning ladies who claimed that it was the Candyman who killed Ruthie Jean, a resident in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project. Helen and her colleague Bernadette Walsh look into the case and learn about another twenty-five murders like that of Ruthie Jean's. Skeptical about the legend, Helen and Bernadette repeat the Candyman's name to Helen's bathroom mirror, but nothing happens.

Helen decides to write a thesis on how the residents of Cabrini-Green used the Candyman legend to cope with the hardships. She and Bernadette enter the housing project and visit the scene of Ruthie Jean's murder. There, they meet Anne-Marie McCoy and her infant son Anthony who tells her more about the night of the murder.

Helen also learns more about the Candyman from Professor Philip Purcell. According to Purcell, the Candyman was the son of a slave who became prosperous by mass-producing shoes after the Civil War. At an early age, he was accepted by the white society. As a well-known artist, he was sought after to paint the portraits of wealthy landowners and their children. After falling in love with a white woman that he was hired to paint and fathering a child with her, the Candyman was set upon by a lynch mob that was hired by his lover's father. They cut off his right hand with a rusty saw and smeared him with honey stolen from an apiary, attracting the bees which sting him to death. His corpse was burned and his ashes were scattered across the land on which Cabrini-Green was built.

On a return visit to Cabrini-Green, Helen meets Jake, a young boy who tells Helen that a child was castrated by the Candyman in a restroom. While exploring the restroom, Helen is attacked by a gang leader who carries a hook and calls himself the Candyman. Helen survives the assault with a black eye and identifies her attacker to the police, who believed him to be responsible for the killings.

Later, in a parking garage, Helen is confronted by the real Candyman. He tells her that because she discredited his legend, he must "shed innocent blood" to perpetuate it. Helen blacks out and wakes up in Anne-Marie's apartment covered in blood. Anne-Marie, whose dog was decapitated and baby was stolen, attacks Helen, who is arrested by the police. Helen's husband Trevor, a university professor, bails her out of jail. The Candyman appears again and cuts Helen's neck, causing her to bleed and pass out. Bernadette shows up at Helen's apartment, where she is murdered by the Candyman, who frames Helen for the crime. Helen is sedated and placed in a psychiatric hospital.

After a month in the hospital, Helen is interviewed by a psychiatrist named Dr. Burke in preparation for her upcoming trial. She attempts to prove her innocence by summoning the Candyman. The Candyman appears and kills Dr. Burke, allowing Helen to escape. Once Helen is home, she finds Trevor living with Stacey, one of his students with whom he's been having an affair. Helen flees to Cabrini-Green, seeking to confront the Candyman and rescue Anthony. When she finds the Candyman, he tells her that surrendering to him will ensure the baby's safety. Offering Helen immortality, the Candyman opens his coat, revealing a ribcage wreathed in bees. The bees pour out of his mouth as he kisses her, sending the bees down her throat. The Candyman vanishes with Anthony, and Helen discovers a mural of the Candyman and his lover, who bears a striking resemblance to Helen. The mural, as well as a message that was left by the Candyman, implies that Helen is a reincarnation of the Candyman's former lover.

The Candyman promises to release Anthony if Helen helps him strike fear in Cabrini-Green's residents. In a bid to feed his legend, the Candyman tries to immolate Helen and the child in a bonfire, but he is destroyed in it. Helen saves Anthony, but she is burned severely and dies. The residents, including Anne-Marie and Jake, pay their respects at Helen's funeral. Jake tosses the Candyman's hook into her grave. Afterward, a grief-stricken and guilt-ridden Trevor looks at his bathroom mirror and says Helen's name five times. Helen's vengeful spirit appears and kills Trevor with a hook, leaving his body to be found by Stacey.

As the credits begin to roll, in the Candyman's former lair, a new mural of Helen with her hair ablaze is displayed, implying that she entered the local folklore.



Barker's short story which was set in his native Liverpool was about segregation and the culture of the poor urban areas.[4] For Candyman, Rose was so shocked by Chicago's "dynamic" architecture[5] and large amount of prejudice[4] that he decided to change the Liverpool location to Chicago.[5] Assisted by members of the Illinois Film Commission, Rose scouted locations in Chicago and found Cabrini Green,[6] a housing project notorious for its poor construction, violence and high robbery rates.[7] The project was also located in between high-class neighborhoods, meaning that the character of Helen could feel Cabrini's chaos from a safe apartment not too far away.[7] This Americanization of the story turned Candyman into an interracial love story where the ghetto residents are now victims of the titular killer.[7] With this change, Rose wanted to showcase those that are living in the poor neighborhoods as regular human beings that are trying to get by which is why he avoided tropes that are common in most American ghetto stories such as gangs and drugs.[8] According to a journalist named Steve Bogira, one source of inspiration may have been a pair of articles that 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.[9] In 1987, McCoy was killed by an intruder who entered her apartment through an opening behind the bathroom's medicine cabinet.[10][11]

Rose's screenplay garnered a huge amount of attention in the casting agencies and Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd instantly tried to get parts to have a chance to work with the filmmaker.[7] Eddie Murphy was the original choice for the role of Candyman, but the filmmakers could not afford him.[12] Todd, who was fit for playing the killer as he was six-foot-five and physically fit[7], recalled that there was skepticism from his colleagues about him playing the Candyman due to the amount of bee sting injuries that he would have to receive. He persisted as he wanted to work with the director and said, "I've always wanted to find my own personal Phantom of the Opera."[13] While the Candyman's background is unknown in the original story, Todd came up with the backstory for the character in the film.[4] Virginia Madsen was friends with 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.[14] The choice was made to make the character of Bernie African American so Madsen lost the part.[14] As the shooting was about to commence, Pigg discovered that she was pregnant so the role of Helen was offered to Madsen.[14] Had Madsen been unable to step into the role, a producer named Alan Poul was partial to Sandra Bullock as Helen.[15]

Three days of Candyman's filming was spent on Cabrini Green while the other days were spent in scenes on Hollywood sound stages.[4] With plainclothes law enforcement by their side, Todd and Madsen went into the buildings of Cabrini as part of researching their roles which was a useful, but distressing experience for both actors.[8] For playing the Candyman, Todd tried to act as a "primeval boogeyman" without overacting the part which was tricky to do.[16] He worked with Bob Keen on the Candyman's look.[4] Keen first had Todd wear a machine-controlled fake right arm, but found the movements of the arm too strict.[4] Then, Keen came up with the idea of having Todd wear a hook to indicate the Candyman's supernatural being. He spent three hours making the hook.[4] Todd suggested the character to wear an eyepatch, but Keen rejected the idea.[4] To keep Candyman at a low budget, Rose instructed a special effects manager named Martin Bresson to use traditional effects instead of optical effects.[16] The same team who worked on Backdraft also designed the set for the bonfire scene of Candyman which involved using 1,500 gallons of propane and its largest section having a 70-foot width and 30-foot height.[16]

The honeybees in Candyman were controlled by Norman Gary who previously handled the bees on films such as The Deadly Bees (1966), My Girl, (1991) and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991).[8] The film used more than 200,000 real honeybees throughout and most of the crew wore bodysuits to be protected from stings, although all of them faced at least one sting.[8] Todd negotiated a bonus of $1,000 for each of the 23 bee stings that he received during filming.[17] In shooting the film's climax where the Candyman sends 500 bees into Helen's face, he first had the bees placed in his mouth by using a protective mouthpiece to avoid as many stings as possible.[16] Gary had to use freshly hatched, non-stinging and non-flying bees for the scene as Madsen was very allergic to stings.[8] It took half an hour for all of the bees to get into Todd's mouth and he recalled being "tranced out" when he let all of the bees out of his mouth.[16] Rose also utilized hypnosis in his movie to work around what he saw as the cliche of excessive screaming in the horror films.[18] Bernard Rose came up with the idea to have Virginia Madsen hypnotized in the scenes where she confronted the Candyman.[18] According to Todd, this process would occur prior to filming the scenes where he and Madsen interacted and would take roughly ten minutes to prepare.[17] This was accomplished through the use of a professional hypnotist who established a key word that Rose would use to put Madsen under a trancelike state.[18]


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."[19] 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.[13]


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.'"[20] At the time of the film's release, Madsen said, "I was and am now worried about how people will respond. I don't think Spike Lee will like this film."[21]

Candyman had its world premiere at the 1992 Toronto International Film Festival, playing as part of its Midnight Madness line-up.[22] It was released on October 16, 1992 in the United States where it made $25.7 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Candyman holds an approval rating of 75% based on 67 reviews and an average rating of 6.53/10. The site's critics 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."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[25]

Allmovie praised the film, calling it "haunting, intelligent and poetic" and "the finest Barker adaptation ever committed to film".[26] 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."[27] Janet Maslin of The New York Times compared it to "an elaborate campfire story" with an "unusually high interest in social issues".[28] 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."[29] Variety called it "an upper-register horror item that delivers the requisite shocks and gore, but doesn't cheat or cop out."[30]

Home media[edit]

It was released on home video in February 1993 by Columbia Tri-Star Home Video.[31] A special edition DVD was released in August 2004.[32]

Candyman was first released on Blu-ray format in Australia on September 1, 2011 via Universal Studios.[33] The same Blu-ray version was made available in the United Kingdom on October 10, 2011.[34] 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 released again in Australia from Shock Records via their Cinema Cult subsidiary with the only addition being a slipcover.[35] 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.[36] A standard edition set was released in Germany on July 29, 2016.[37] 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.[38] 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 the film would contain a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the first time. The set includes a collector's booklet, 6 lobby cards, a reversible poster and reversible cover artwork. It was released on October 29, 2018.[39]


The film came in at number 75 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[40]

The character Candyman came in at number 8 on Bloody Disgusting's "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"[41] and ranked the same on Ugo's "Top Eleven Slashers".[42] The actor who played Candyman, Tony Todd, made #53 on Retrocrush's "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances" for his role.[43]

The film appears in two sections of's "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"[44] and "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings".[45]

In 2001, the American Film Institute nominated this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[46]


Two stand-alone sequels comprising a single storyline were released in 1995 and 1999 respectively: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman: Day of the Dead.

In September 2018, it was announced that Jordan Peele was in talks to produce a direct sequel to the 1992 film using his company, Monkeypaw Productions.[47] Todd stated in a 2018 interview with Nightmare on Film Street, "I'd rather have [Peele] 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."[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]

In January 2019, it was reported that Lakeith Stanfield (Known for FX's Atlanta and Sorry to Bother You) would possibly star in the film, but not as the main titular character rather as an older version of Anthony McCoy who was a visual artist who took on an interest seeking the legend of the Candyman that was similar to Helen Lyle's character played by Virginia Madsen.

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."[51]

In February 2019, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was in talks to play the titular character.[52] In response to the news, Todd said: "Cheers to Candyman, a wonderful character that 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".[53] However, it was ultimately announced that Todd would reprise his role.

If Beale Street Could Talk actress Teyonah Parris was cast opposite in playing Abdul-Mateen's character Anthony's girlfriend.[54] Other added cast are Fear The Walking Dead star Colman Domingo and Misfits star Nathan Stewart-Jarret.[55]

Production for the film began in August 2019 and wrapped in September 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The working title of the film was revealed on some of the cast and crew social media pages as Say My Name which was discreetly used in the revised scripts and production sets to keep things "flying under the radar" with the official title also being Candyman.[56] The film will be released in 2021.[57]


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  • 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.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Schweiger, Daniel (October 1992). "Candyman: A Nightmare Sweet". Fangoria. No. 117. pp. 24–28, 62.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]