“You here for the sweets?”
Cabrini Green resident Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) meets two graduate students who take it upon themselves to venture to the more dangerous areas of Chicago to complete their thesis on urban legends. She initially is hesitant on approaching Helen (Virginia Madsen) and Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) due to ongoing white visitors who look at the residents like zoo animals caught up in crime. The two have good intentions, but Helen is definitely the more naive of the two as she’s eager to dig deep into the mythos that haunts the darker side of Chicago. Bernadette displays her concerns, perhaps being a black woman herself allowing her to be more aware of communities that Helen has never experienced. Chicago is a city celebrates its diversity, but there is a line of segregation that’s left often unspoken. What makes CANDYMAN a significant piece of horror history is its unique social commentary told through the lens of a genre film.
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and was already aware of Cabrini Green before I saw this movie as a kid. I remember driving past it and a family member warning me not to ever go to that place because of the dangerous gangs that run the area. As someone who always had social anxiety even as a kid, this scared the hell out of me and wondered why we were even driving by the place. I saw CANDYMAN probably when I was seven or eight and it scared the hell out of me. To this day, I can’t watch the movie alone and, despite the beautiful Philip Glass composition, I just can’t go into a bathroom if I hear the score. I’m in my 30s now and I still consider this the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I thought about why it scares me so much, but a lot of it probably had to do with my older relatives telling me that this movie was all true (though further research shows that the whole Ruthie Jean murder really did happen). I obviously believed them and director Bernard Rose grounds the story in reality, humanizing our monster in a tragic love story set in a racially tense neighborhood (not that it isn’t now). These are normal people with normal jobs. There’s nothing glamorous about them, except that their stories live on in ghost stories and “have you ever heard of Candyman?” sleepovers.
For those unfamiliar to the film, two graduate students focus their thesis on urban legends, mainly that of Candyman, a man who appears after you say his name five times in the mirror and then he guts you with his hook for a hand. They trace the legend to Cabrini Green, where the neighborhood kids are terrified of him as they believe if they snitch or even are seen speaking to anyone of authority, Candyman will kill them. Helen wants to debunk the myth and learns that doing so might actually unleash a supernatural being that yearns to be not only live in our fears, but wants to be loved. I’ll leave his backstory for you to discover, but it’s hard to see him a truly evil figure as he really is the product of American history that no one likes to talk about.
This new Scream Factory blu-ray is a real treasure as previous supplements from the DVD are transferred over along with new goodies to delve into. I’m one of those fans who devoured the special features the night I got this in my hands. We get new interviews with the Candyman himself, Tony Todd, as well other cast members like Madsen, Lemmons, and an entertaining DeJuan Guy who plays the young Jake in the film. We get stories about the production design, the makeup effects, and even a more educated take on what CANDYMAN has to offer. The original cast and crew commentary is here, along with The Movie Crypt episode where Rose joins directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch for a fresh discussion of the film. A newly recorded track with Rose and Todd joins the supplements and it’s probably one of the more nostalgic pieces here as the two reflect on the film, its sequels, and comparisons to modern horror films.
There’s also a restored unrated cut (which this was my first time seeing), but the theatrical cut is the ultimate HD experience with a 5.1 track that really emphasizes Todd’s booming voice and elevates the scares. I love this movie, will always love this movie, and this is truly a special release for those fans who grew up avoiding bathroom mirrors like me.