Candyman (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
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$25.7 million (US)[2]

Candyman is a 1992 American slasher film written and directed by Bernard Rose. It was produced by Steve Golin, Alan Poul, and Sigurjón Sighvatsson, and based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, who also served as executive producer. The film's scenario is switched from Liverpool, England to the Cabrini–Green public housing development on Chicago's Near North Side. The film's music was written by the composer Philip Glass. 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 his hand severed and was then murdered.

It was released theatrically by TriStar and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment on 16 October 1992. It has a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which called it a "nuanced, effectively chilling tale". It grossed over $25 million. Candyman was followed by two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, and Candyman: Day of the Dead, neither of which performed critically and commercially as well as Candyman.


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 in 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 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, 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 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, who bears a striking resemblance to Helen. This and a message left by Candyman imply that Helen's a reincarnation of said lover.

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 faces his bathroom mirror and says Helen's name four 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.



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."[3] Rose once said in an interview with The Independent that he found filming in Chicago easier than filming in England.[4]

Ruthie Mae McCoy[edit]

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.[5] In 1987, McCoy had been killed by an intruder who entered her apartment through an opening behind the bathroom's medicine cabinet.[6][7]


Eddie Murphy was the original choice for the role of Candyman, but the filmmakers could not afford him.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10] The choice was then made to make the character of Bernie African American so Madsen lost the part.[10] As shooting was about to commence, Pigg discovered that she was pregnant so the role of Helen was offered to Madsen.[10] Had Madsen been unable to step into the role, producer Alan Poul was partial to Sandra Bullock as Helen.[11]


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. . .'"[4] According to Madsen, "I was and am now worried about how people will respond. I don't think Spike Lee will like this film."[12]


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."[13] 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.[9]


Candyman had its world premiere at the 1992 Toronto International Film Festival, playing as part of its Midnight Madness line-up.[14] It was released on October 16, 1992, in the United States, where it made $25.7 million.[2] It was released on home video in February 1993 by Columbia Tri-Star Home Video.[15] A special edition DVD was released in August 2004.[16]

Candyman was first released on Blu-ray format in Australia on September 1, 2011 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[17] The same Blu-ray version was made available in the United Kingdom on October 10, 2011.[18] 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.[19] In Germany, a 'Limited Edition' Digibook was made available on May 27, 2016 and is currently 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.[20] A standard edition set was released in Germany on July 29, 2016.[21] 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 will 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 will contain a newly remastered 2K restoration from a new 4K scan, as well as a number of new special features including commentaries and featurettes.[22]

It was announced on July 27, 2018, that the film will be released by Arrow Films in the United Kingdom in a "Limited Edition" Blu-ray set with will include the same scan and special features as the U.S. edition, and it has been confirmed for this edition that, for the first time, the film will contain a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The set will also include a collector's booklet, 6 lobby cards, a reversible poster, and reversible cover artwork. The set will be available from October 29, 2018.[23]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 73% of 48 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."[24] Allmovie praised the film, calling it "haunting, intelligent and poetic" and "the finest Barker adaptation ever committed to film".[25] 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."[26] Janet Maslin of The New York Times compared it to "an elaborate campfire story" with an "unusually high interest in social issues".[27] 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."[28] Variety called it "an upper-register horror item that delivers the requisite shocks and gore but doesn't cheat or cop out."[29]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[30]


The film came in at number 75 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[31]

The character Candyman came in at number 8 on Bloody Disgusting's "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"[32] and ranked the same on Ugo's "Top Eleven Slashers".[33] The actor who played Candyman, Tony Todd, made #53 on Retrocrush's "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances" for his role.[34]

The film appears in two sections of's "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"[35] and "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings".[36]

In 2001, the American Film Institute nominated this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[37]

In September 2018, it was announced Jordan Peele was in talks to produce a remake of the film through his Monkeypaw Productions[38], 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."[39]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Candyman (1992)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Candyman (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
  3. ^ "Horrorella Talks Tolstoy, Beethoven and Candyman with Writer-Director Bernard Rose!". Ain't It Cool News. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Bogira, Steve (3 March 2014). "How a Story About the Horrors of Housing Projects Became Part of a Horror Movie". Chicago Reader. 43 (27).
  6. ^ Bogira, Steve (4 September 1987). "They Came in Through the Bathroom Mirror: A Murder in the Projects". Chicago Reader. 16 (46): 2.
  7. ^ 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).
  8. ^ Evans, Bradford (7 April 2011). "The Lost Roles of Eddie Murphy". Splitsider. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  9. ^ a b Tony Todd On His Career - From Candyman to VANish on YouTube
  10. ^ a b c Caprilozzi, Christine (2012-12-14). "Twenty Year Retrospective of Candyman with Virginia Madsen". Horror News Network. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  11. ^ Wood, Jennifer M. (2017-10-16). "15 Fascinating Facts About Candyman". Mental Floss. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  12. ^ Lovell, Glenn (29 October 1992). "Black Slasher 'Candyman' Draws Fire Over 'racist' Depictions". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  13. ^ Asp, Jon (31 January 2014). "Philip Glass: 'Without terror, there's no learning' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  14. ^ Wilner, Norman (August 13, 1992). "Midnight Madness at the movies". Toronto Star. pp. B4.
  15. ^ Wheeler, Drew (1993-02-06). "Marquee Values". Billboard. 105 (6): 60.
  16. ^ Bovberg, Jason (2004-08-04). "Candyman: Special Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  17. ^ "Candyman Blu-ray". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Candyman Blu-ray". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Candyman Blu-ray". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  20. ^ "Candyman Blu-ray". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Candyman Blu-ray". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Shout Factory: Fourteen New Titles Coming Soon to Blu-ray". 20 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Arrow Video Announces October Blu-ray Releases". 27 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Candyman (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  25. ^ Binion, Cavett. "Candyman (1992)". Allmovie. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  26. ^ Ebert, Roger (1992-10-16). "Candyman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  27. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-10-16). "Candyman (1992)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  28. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1992-10-16). "MOVIE REVIEW : Ambitious 'Candyman' Serves Large Doses of Repellent Gore". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  29. ^ "Review: 'Candyman'". Variety. 1992. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  30. ^ "CinemaScore".
  31. ^ "100 Scariest Movie Moments". Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
  32. ^ Bloody Disgusting - "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History"
  33. ^ Ugo - "Top Eleven Slashers" Archived 2009-02-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ Retrocrush - "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances"
  35. ^ - "Greatest Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes"
  36. ^ - "Greatest Movie Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings"
  37. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  38. ^ "Jordan Peele in Talks to Remake Clive Barker's 'Candyman' [Exclusive] - Bloody Disgusting". Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  39. ^ "[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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