Confront the legend of my hometown | Arts + Culture
Growing up in the Chicago Southside has had its ups and downs. The pizza was pretty good, but the Mary Jane was overpriced. I never ran out of things to do, but had to live in constant fear of being gutted by a man in the mirror. It’s just city life.
Where I’m from, across town where both the original “Candyman” and the remake take place, the Candyman is real. He’s not like Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, the horror villains invented to keep you awake at night. It is an active and active force in the universe, and if I was not careful I would become one of its victims.
I only saw Bernard Rose’s 1992 film quite recently. I don’t even think I knew the movie existed before high school. In Chicago, the Candyman doesn’t need a movie to tell his story. That’s what recreation is for.
“My sister and her friends summoned Candyman,” a friend once told me. It was a pivotal moment for me.
According to him, the girls all gathered in the bathroom, lit a candle and said “Candyman” three times in a mirror, while circling around. After a while, his face appeared in the mirror. They screamed so loud that they woke the whole house.
Brushing my teeth that morning would be the last time I looked at myself in the mirror in maybe two months.
Over the years, the stories have piled up. It seemed like everyone had their own contact with the Candyman. I remember a kid telling me that the Candyman killed his mother’s brother when they were just kids. I never knew if it was true, but I really believed it then. Others saw him prowling the alleys when they went to town with their parents. He was still there.
The 1992 film nails this concept. Powerful performances by Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, combined with perhaps the most haunting horror score yet, bring the Candyman to life. One of the great strengths of the film is that whenever someone tells the story of the Candyman, there are always small differences. It took me back to my childhood. It doesn’t matter if you had to say his name three or five times, or if it appeared in an abandoned parking lot or in your own bathroom. What was important was that he was there, and we believed in him.
Nia DaCosta’s 2021 version of the Chi-Town Boogeyman was much less ambiguous and faulty. While the original makes the main character Helen, as well as the audience, wonder if the Candyman is real or if she literally goes crazy, the updated version features a very real Candyman, who kills anyone who calls her without too much. agenda. Its origins are established and not open to debate. There is no mystery. Without giving the Candyman the ability to change over time, the idea of a living urban legend is lost.
Of course, I cannot discuss “Candyman” without commenting on his use of racist themes, especially gentrification. While the take of 1992 played its cards much closer to his chest, the remake puts the calculated destruction of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green at the forefront of the film. The word “gentrification” is explicitly spoken more times than I have been able to count. Whether or not the change works is up to the viewer, but I personally believe in the power of subtlety.
Either way, “Candyman” was a triumph in at least a way. Nia DaCosta became the first black woman in history to direct a box-office blockbuster film. His victory is well deserved. Despite a screenplay that probably could have used a few more drafts, “Candyman” proved DaCosta a competent director and was an incredible introduction for her into the mainstream film industry.
While the film’s ending is overzealous, the end credits sequence will undoubtedly go down in horror history. The use of shadow puppets is ingenious and made me leave the theater completely shaken up, which wouldn’t have happened if they had given us the actual end of the movie.
While this is a relatively disappointing reboot of an all-time classic, “Candyman” managed to remind me of my roots. I may not have felt it in the seats in the theater, but as the wind begins to cool and the leaves begin to fall, I can feel it calling me. Telling me it’s time to come home.