Candyman is a 1992 gothic-horror film set in the crowded streets of Chicago. The film is about an urban “legend” named Candyman who blurs the line between myth and reality when he starts stalking our main character Hellen, and people all around her start to die in a brutal and gruesome fashion. As the film progresses we as the audience starts to question if it is really Hellen committing these crimes or if it is actually Candyman just framing her.
From the many times I have watched this phenomenal film, I have come to the grim conclusion that Candyman is only real because we make him real. The scary truth is, The monsters under your bed become real to you, so in your sense of reality they are birthed into this world from your imagination.
In this film, our two main characters are Hellen and Bernadette. Their goal is to write a thesis about a mythical figure named Candyman whom people have been attributing to rather peculiar murders in the city. When the two women go to an apartment complex, a building that housed one of these murders, they find the abandoned apartment where the killing took place. In it, Hellen crawls through a hole in a wall and finds unsettling graffiti art resembling Candyman’s gaping mouth as if he’s eating anyone who walks through that hole.
In this room she finds a pile of tampered candy that contain razor blades in them. This is among two separate scenes that, in my opinion are the meat and potatoes of the film’s message.
Have you ever truly seen a child with tampered candy on Halloween? As much as the media likes to portray, there really isn’t any concrete evidence that suggests it has a probability worth stressing about. However, the real interesting factor that I feel parents could confirm is that in most confirmed cases of tampered candy, children have been found to actually poison or tamper with their own candy (Miller). Sometimes this can happen when children hear about this on the news or from a friend and act it out. Other times its merely a prank.
In the other scene, Hellen is talking to a young child named Jake. Apparantly there is another story floating around relating to Candyman about a mentally challenged individual who was castrated in a public bathroom. When she goes to investigate to take pictures she is interrupted by a gang member holding a hook dressed as Candyman who says to her: “I heard you’re looking for Candyman bitch. Well, you found him”. Of course, she was then subsequently beaten to a pulp.
These two scenes matter because it explains who and what Candyman is.
Poisoned Candy “Myth”
Children are incredibly curious and impressionable and frequently act out and talk about what they see around them. When it gets close to Halloween the child may see something on the news or hear from a relative about warnings for razor blades or poison in candy from Trick ‘r Treating. The child might then tamper with their own candy and come running to mommy or daddy all disheveled because they get precious attention from their parents.
However, even though this isn’t directly related to the urban legend of Candyman, it represents what Candyman wants and what he needs for him to exist. It doesn’t really matter if people are actually poisoning candy on Halloween, but it terrifies parents just the same of just having the thought in their head. Children are the ones most malleable by the myth. They are the most naive, gullible, and the ones that express the most fear.
Of course, there hasn’t been enough evidence over the years to entertain the thought that this is an actual risk but again, that doesn’t matter. Once one person hears about it, they tell their friends, their friends make up stories for attention and for a good laugh. Some people even make movies and write books that contain the myth that then go on to be seen by thousands and millions of people.
Candyman doesn’t need to be real for us to believe in him. All Candyman needs is for the legend of his existence to be spread. It’s when gangs and murderers start taking advantage of the legend to scare people when it starts to become really dangerous.
Heard You Were Looking For Candyman
Nearly everyone in Chicago in this film has at the very least heard of Candyman. Naturally criminals take advantage of this to drive fear into the hearts of civilians.
Take a film that came out recently, Joker for example. The United States military themselves warned movie theater chains to ramp up security in preparation for Hollywood’s newest horror movie. The reason was that there was fear that someone might act out the atrocities of a movie villain like Joker. Of course, this never happened but imagine the satisfaction a troubled criminal might come to have, perhaps considering Joker as an idol when they commit atrocities even with the possibility of their death. The attention and satisfaction of sending a message to the world in one big bang is all that matters to them.
Of course, the media is also to blame. Big stories like this attract more traffic, and news companies are even known to drive a fake or far-fetched narrative. The article or script for live television will be structured in such a way that it could almost be considered a story. It doesn’t matter who they make the criminal out to be. Maybe s/he’s an incel raging about their quarrels with women in today’s society. Maybe its a nazi, or in this case, a Joker imposter.
The legend of Candyman is so popular and widespread that gangs take advantage of this and adopt characteristics of him. They paint his name and pictures of him on the walls of buildings and dressing up as him, acting out his likeness. This continued violence keeps the Candyman name alive. Due to all this violence from gang members and people who live through it, some may even add tall tales or fake news to the story.
For the copycats, these people commit these murders and horrendous acts because they attribute to who and what Candyman is, so in that sense the myth becomes real because of them. At that point, there is no myth because that person becomes Candyman. Candyman is the mother-ship of the disgusting imagination and curiosity of Mankind.
Even Hellen, who is trying to research about the real truth of the Candyman urban legend, is only making it worse. Hellen thinks she can stop these rumors from spreading with factual research, but she’s only enabling Candyman and his copycats. By believing in Candyman and spreading his myth you are inadvertently birthing more horrible things into existence related to the Candyman urgan legend. This is reflected by the fact that after all her research and hard work, all she got for her efforts was a black eye.
The New Queen
Throughout the course of the film, I’d like to think that weather Candyman is aware of it or not, Hellen is being trained to become the new Queen of the hive. When Hellen comes home after being released from custody with her lawyer, she has a conversation with him and her husband. She asks Trevor if he thinks she did it when he says “Nobody believes that” and she responds with “But it crossed your mind”. No one wants to address the elephant in the room because of how absurd it sounds that “Candyman” killed someone rather than Hellen. So to save herself the embarrassment she doesn’t entertain the idea and allows herself to be seen in the public eye as the true killer.
When the detective assigned to Hellen’s case tells her that she is to be arrested and asks “do you understand?”, her and the audience have no clue why or what killed that dog and took the child away and how it is related to Candyman. However when Candyman asks the same question, this time it is paired with another question that, although grim, actually makes sense:
Believe me it is a blessing to be whispered about around street corners, to live in other people’e dreams, but not to have to be.Tony Todd as Candyman – Candyman (1992)
Candyman doesn’t have to be a living and breathing entity, as in his own words, being immortal in the world of dreams and myths is much more intoxicating than the life of a mortal.
After Hellen was burned alive in the end of the film and given a funeral, she had hundreds of followers come to her casket, when Jake throws a hook into her grave. Afterwards, we see Trevor writhing in his bathroom over what he experienced. He looks in the mirror and say’s Hellen’s name in the mirror five times when she appears before him saying, “What’s wrong Trevor, scared of something?”. The truth is he is scared of something. He’s scared of still having feelings for someone who committed murder and acted out disgusting and horrendous actions.
Trevor believed that myths like the albino alligators in the sewer and well, Candyman himself were fake. By doing this and spreading his word he was weakening the faith in Hellen’s new congregation and had to be destroyed.
Looking back at this film, I found the message to be extremely relatable. Take sleep paralysis for example. When you see such terrible things running around your room, its one of the most terrifying things any one person can experience. However, even though you know you’re safe and in a couple minutes you’ll wake up unharmed there’s no shortage of fear in your bones. The bottom line is something doesn’t have to be real to scare us, proving how fragile and helpless we really are.
- Miller, Adam. “Trick or Truth? The real story behind Halloween candy tampering”. CBC. CBC/Radio-Candada. 31 Oct. 2019. Web. 29 Jan. 2019.