Candyman (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bernard Rose
Produced by
Screenplay by Bernard Rose
Based on "The Forbidden
by Clive Barker
Music by Philip Glass
Cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
Edited by Dan Rae
Distributed by
Release dates
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[citation needed]
Box office $25.7 million (US)[1]

Candyman is a 1992 American horror film written and directed by Bernard Rose, based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, though the film's scenario is switched from England to the Cabrini–Green public housing development on Chicago's Near North Side. It stars Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Xander Berkeley. The plot follows a graduate student (Madsen) completing a thesis on urban legends who encounters the legend of "Candyman" (Todd), an artist and son of a slave who had had his hand severed and been murdered.

Candyman spawned two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman 3: Day of the Dead.


Helen Lyle, a graduate student, conducts research on urban legends, and, in the process, learns of a local legend known as Candyman. The legend claims that Candyman can be summoned by saying his name five times while facing a mirror, whereupon he will murder the summoner with his hook-hand. Later that evening, Helen and her friend Bernadette, skeptical of Candyman's existence, call Candyman's name into the mirror in Helen's bathroom, but nothing happens.

Helen discovers that Candyman was the son of a slave, whose father became prosperous after developing a system for mass-producing shoes during the Civil War. Candyman grew up in 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 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, prompting the locals to chant 'Candyman' as bees stung him to death.

With her colleague Bernadette, Helen enters the notorious gang-ridden Cabrini–Green housing project, the site of a recent unsolved murder, linked to Candyman. There, she meets Anne-Marie McCoy, one of the residents, and a young boy named Jake, who tells her the disturbing story of a child who was castrated in a public restroom, supposedly by Candyman. While Helen explores the run-down restroom, she is attacked by a gang member that carries a hook and has taken the Candyman moniker as his own in order to enhance his "street cred". Helen survives the assault, and is able to identify her attacker to the police.

Helen later faces the apparent real Candyman, who explains that since Helen has been telling people he is just a legend, he must prove he exists. Helen blacks out and wakes up in Anne-Marie's apartment, covered in blood. Anne-Marie, whose Rottweiler has been decapitated, and whose baby is missing, attacks Helen; in the midst of defending herself, the police arrest Helen. 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 arrives at the apartment, and Candyman murders her. Helen is sedated and placed in a psychiatric hospital pending trial.

After a month's stay at the hospital, a psychologist interviews Helen in preparation for her upcoming trial. While restrained, Helen attempts to convince the psychologist that the urban legend is true by calling Candyman. Candyman appears and murders the psychologist, and Helen is able to escape. She briefly confronts Trevor, but he is now living with one of his female students. Helen then flees to Cabrini–Green to confront Candyman and locate Anne-Marie's still-missing infant. In an apartment's attic, she encounters the words "It was always you, Helen."

Candyman predicts that Helen will help carry on his tradition of inciting fear into a community and promises to release the baby if Helen sacrifices herself. However, Candyman, intending to sacrifice them to feed his own legend, attempts to immolate them all in a community bonfire that the residents light when they believe Candyman to be hiding in it. Before she dies, Helen rescues the baby. After Helen's funeral, the residents of Cabrini–Green pay their respects, especially Anne-Marie for saving her baby. Trevor stands before a mirror in the bathroom of their former apartment, where he chants Helen's name in grief. As a result, her vengeful spirit is summoned. Helen kills Trevor with Candyman's hook, leaving Trevor's new lover, Stacey, with his bloodied corpse as Helen becomes the embodiment of the urban legend. In Cabrini-Green, a painting of Helen with her hair ablaze on a wall shows that she has now entered folklore.



Filming locations[edit]

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."[2] Rose once said in an interview with The Independent that he found filming in Chicago easier than filming in England.[3]


Eddie Murphy was the original choice for the role of Candyman, but the filmmakers could not afford him.[4] 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."[5]


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 Lector? If you're saying that they can't be, it's really perverse. This is a horror movie. . .'"[3] According to Madsen, "`I was and am now worried about how people will respond. I don`t think Spike Lee will like this film."[6]


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."[7] 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.[5]


Candyman had its world premiere at the 1992 Toronto Film Festival, playing as part of its Midnight Madness line-up.[8] It was released on October 16, 1992, in the United States, where it made $25.7 million.[1] It was released on home video in February 1993 by Columbia Tri-Star Home Video.[9] A special edition DVD was released in August 2004.[10]


Candyman received generally favorable reviews upon its release. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 71% of 41 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 6.2/10. 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."[11] Allmovie praised the film, calling it "haunting, intelligent and poetic" and "the finest Barker adaptation ever committed to film".[12] 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."[13] Janet Maslin of The New York Times compared it to "an elaborate campfire story" with an "unusually high interest in social issues".[14] 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."[15] Variety called it "an upper-register horror item that delivers the requisite shocks and gore but doesn't cheat or cop out."[16]


The film also came in at number 75 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[17]

The character Candyman came in at number 8 on Bloody Disgusting's "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"[18] and ranked the same on Ugo's "Top Eleven Slashers".[19] The actor who played Candyman, Tony Todd, made #53 on Retrocrush's "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances" for his role.[20]

The film appears in two sections of's "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"[21] and "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings".[22]

The film was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Candyman (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  2. ^ "Horrorella Talks Tolstoy, Beethoven and Candyman with Writer-Director Bernard Rose!". Ain't It Cool News. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Rose, Bernard (13 March 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. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Evans, Bradford (7 April 2011). "The Lost Roles of Eddie Murphy". Splitsider. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Tony Todd On His Career - From Candyman to VANish on YouTube
  6. ^ Lovell, Glenn (29 October 1992). "Black Slasher `Candyman` Draws Fire Over `racist` Depictions". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Asp, Jon (31 January 2014). "Philip Glass: ‘Without terror, there’s no learning’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Wilner, Norman (August 13, 1992). "Midnight Madness at the movies". Toronto Star. pp. B4. 
  9. ^ Wheeler, Drew (1993-02-06). "Marquee Values". Billboard 105 (6): 60. 
  10. ^ Bovberg, Jason (2004-08-04). "Candyman: Special Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  11. ^ "Candyman (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  12. ^ Binion, Cavett. "Candyman (1992)". Allmovie. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1992-10-16). "Candyman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-10-16). "Candyman (1992)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  15. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1992-10-16). "MOVIE REVIEW : Ambitious 'Candyman' Serves Large Doses of Repellent Gore". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  16. ^ "Review: 'Candyman'". Variety. 1992. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  17. ^ 100 Scariest Movie Moments at the Wayback Machine (archived October 30, 2007)
  18. ^ Bloody Disgusting - "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"
  19. ^ Ugo - "Top Eleven Slashers"
  20. ^ Retrocrush - "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances"
  21. ^ - "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"
  22. ^ - "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings"
  23. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Ballot

External links[edit]