Urban legends are myths, started by creatives and told huddled around campfires. They were spread at sleepovers, whispered in classrooms and eventually made it to the adult pub scene which would alert filmmakers to sit back and say, “hang on, we’ve struck gold here.” Ever since, those campfire stories have clung to our minds and horror have delectably dug into our psyches to devour our fears. When I was younger, and even now, one of those stories that’ll tickle and chill me to my bones is the tale of Candyman. I remember the pure fear trickling down (my leg) and the hiding behind the sofa thanks to this gruesome tale. And still now it is a bitter wasp to swallow.
Played allusively by Tony Todd in Bernard Rose’s 1991 horror flick, Candyman is based on folklore that if you say his name five times into a mirror, he’ll appear with his bloody hook and slice you a bigger belly button. When Helen Lutz investigates this seemingly innocuous myth for her thesis and as she explores the derelict apartment blocks of several murders, she finds that not only is the legend true but he has been waiting for her for some time. As she battles against this frightful ghoul, she must defend her own sanity and life as well as the life of all that she loves.
Tony Todd’s Candyman is the main focus here. The calmly roaring vocalisation of the deeply disturbing villain is unnerving. His poetic speeches areas taunts at Helen and more of a seductive power play. The ferociousness of his tongue is exquisite and that’s what makes it so intensely alarming. Combined with his towering stature and shadowy presence, Todd’s performance will fill you with dread, brimming as he menacingly appears. The delicate was of the destruction that he weaves is incomparable, and only does the charisma of Lecter match the viciousness of Todd’s gruelling Candyman, slathered in blood and wasps. Shoving lines such as “Be My Victim” into his silvery tongue is undeniably scary.
And the story allows the sadistic poetic nature of Candyman to play with our psyche. Candyman isn’t just an apparition that cuts and slices, he appears to Helen and aims to seduce her into a grizzly death. And he’ll do so by driving her to madness and framing her for the murders, it is intellectually stunning and different. What’s more terrifying than this though is that a majority of his killings throughout the film are done during the night? This murderous spectre makes sure that the deaths are spectacles because he wants the parish to live trembling in his legend.
There is a palpable unnerving sense of realism throughout this movie helped along by the undeniably frightful score. A critically acclaimed horror film is few and far nowadays but when your terribly scary monster bewitched critics and audiences alike with it’s modern gothic poetry. Todd exudes horror and fear yet charm and delicacy making him a unforgettable and unmatchable villain. Candyman is the stalker of thoughts, illusions in the shadows and the fine line between fact and fiction. Much like Robert Englund’s Krueger, I doubt there could ever be a Candyman quite like Todd. Will you dare say his name five times in the mirror?
No I didn’t think so.