Curiosity has been the integral trait for graduate student Helen; evident through her sociologist studies that revolve around the lore of urban legends. Her latest thesis has her investigating the story of Candyman, a supernatural being that reveals himself when his name is spoken five times when looking into a mirror. It’s up for debate whether it’s her scholarly motivation or personal intrigue why she becomes so invested, but what she ends up finding is something more sinister than she could ever imagine.
The first third of the film is very much a slow burn. A few fake-out jump scares here and there, but it’s the spoken second hand words by those connected to the myth of Candyman that really sets the tone. I always admire horror films that carefully plant seeds; thus leaving it to the viewer’s imagination before a reveal takes place. There are some simple yet effective components that add to the authenticity. The setting of the gritty projects and discussions of race relations balance the supernatural elements that are beyond realistic. Everyone who has the slightest knowledge of someone affected by the Candyman’s actions seems absolutely terrified. This compels you to become invested in Helen’s journey to figure out the truth behind the stories.
Mental stability becomes a major factor for Helen, a surprise as I expected the film to rely more on simple slasher tactics than a psychological wear on the protagonist. Gore is still present in the film as it teases the audience with brief snippets before some longer shot sequences, though it lays as a secondary character within the horror. This psychological component relies heavily on the performance of Virginia Madsen. Her portrayal of Helen is a rollercoaster of emotions as she continues down the path of curiosity. Without giving too much away, her final state is compiled by the trauma she witnesses and experiences; a truly satisfying end.
The demeanor of Candyman is pure horror delight. Tony Todd’s voice, which is already menacing on it’s own, is propelled to a higher level with echoes and a louder volume than most dialogue; as if the voice is in our own heads. When he does finally appear, “Candyman” kicks off the real terror. Again as stated before, the movie masks some scenes, leaving it to the viewer’s interpretation of how a gruesome scene unfolded. Which today might be quickly redone as a CGI slasher fest.
You might not look at bees the same way again, the same can go for films often labeled as slashers. I went in with little to no knowledge of the premise aside from a few photos of Tony Todd’s character, thus was welcomed by a surprisingly well crafted horror film. It’s ability to balance kills with psychology gives this film an edge over most of its genre counterparts.