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Film / Candyman

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Candyman (1992) is a neo-noir/slasher film starring Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd.

Helen Lyle, a graduate student, is conducting research for her thesis on urban legends. While interviewing freshmen about their superstitions she hears about a local legend known as Candyman, the son of a slave who was brutally tortured and murdered because of a love affair with the daughter of a local (white) plantation owner. According to the legend, anyone who looks into a mirror and chants his name five times will summon him, but at the cost of his or her own life, similar to the Bloody Mary urban legend. Helen believes that Candyman cannot exist and jokingly calls his name in the mirror in her house.

Little does she know her innocent joke will set in motion a terrifying series of events that will cause her to question what is real and what is legend...


Candyman is based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, and was followed by two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).

No relation to The Candy Man.

Tropes. Tropes. Tropes. Tropes. Tropes.

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Candyman's ultimate plan is to allow himself, Helen, and a kidnapped baby to die in a bonfire so that all three can live on in legend, only for Helen to rescue the baby and abandon him. Candyman wins in Barker's story.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film adds the plot of Helen being framed for Candyman's murders.
    • It also adds Candyman's backstory and Helen becoming a new urban legend herself.
    • Also applies to Bernadette's character. In the original story, she's only a minor character who attends the same dinner party as Helen and has a small conversation with her. In the movie, she's upgraded to Helen's best friend and a supporting character as well as one of Candyman's victims.
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  • Adaptational Heroism: Anne-Marie and her neighbors were much more culpable for the murder of her baby in the original short story.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In "The Forbidden", Helen's last name is Buchanan as opposed to Lyle in the movie. Anne-Marie's last name is changed from Latimer to McCoy in the movie, as well as her baby's name from Kerry to Anthony.
  • Adult Fear: Seeing the blood-soaked crib of Anne-Marie's baby would send the chills down the spine of any adult. Even more so when it turns out he's okay, but is almost burned alive when Candyman puts him inside a bonfire heap.
  • A God Am I: Thanks to his nature (requiring belief to continue existing), it is hinted that Candyman has this attitude about his "congregation."
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: By the end of the film, Helen's trials and tribulations turn her into a murderous urban legend just like Candyman.
  • Animal Motifs: Bees.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Arc Words:
    • "Sweets for the sweet."
    • "Be my victim."
  • Artistic License – History: The backstory given by the first movie claims that Candyman was lynched in Cabrini Green around 1890. Construction didn't begin on Cabrini Green until 1942. Justified in that Candyman's urban legend doesn't need precise historical accuracy to give him life and as mentioned in the sequel section it was used to reveal the first film's version of the backstory was proven inaccurate.
  • Asshole Victim: Trevor. Not only was he cheating on Helen with a student, but it is implied that he was going to let her rot in the asylum while he would set off for a new life with his lover. He is shown grieving for Helen after she dies, but by then it is too late for him.
  • Badass Boast: Candyman has plenty, but this one is the most well known.
    Candyman: I am the writing on the wall. The whisper in the classroom. Without these things I am nothing, so I must shed innocent blood.
  • Badass Longcoat: Candyman's attire, which is used to cover his bee-infested ribcage.
  • Bee Afraid: Candyman was tortured by having his hand hacked off with a saw, then being covered in honey, which attracted bees that stung him to death.
  • Bee Bee Gun: When the Candyman opens his coat he's revealed from the neck down to be little more than a skeleton wreathed in the many thousands of bees that killed him.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted. Helen rescues a child from beneath a raging bonfire and she is horribly burned, later dying from her injuries. While her face is left intact, her scalp becomes a charred mess with only bits of hair left. When we see Helen in her coffin and then as a Candywoman, it's clear the mortuary wax didn't begin to hide what happened to her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Helen manages to save the baby from the fire and defeat Candyman only to die from the burns, and become a murderous urban legend herself.
  • Broken Pedestal: After Helen becomes a murder suspect, the attitude of Det. Frank Valento, who initially acted as an ally to Helen to help her investigate the murders and aided her after her assault, turns cold and hostile towards her. Justified given that the cops found Helen carrying a meat cleaver at a bloody crime scene, was seemingly attacking Anne-Marie when she was found, and has seemingly murdered an infant and brutally killed a dog (which really was killed in-universe, just not by her).
  • The Cameo: Ted Raimi as the boyfriend in the opening scene.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Why summon the Candyman from a bathroom mirror? Because bathrooms are scary.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The Candyman was created by people's belief in him.
  • Crapsack World: Cabrini Green, a Real Life housing project that in its day was infamous even outside Chicago for its crime problems.
  • Daylight Horror: The film has plenty of day scenes that are every bit as frightening as many night scenes in other horror movies. In fact, the Candyman's first full appearance is in broad daylight and it's still very shocking.
  • Death by Adaptation: Trevor and Bernadette.
  • Deceptively Silly Title: Our ghost is called the "Candyman" but he is totally serious about killing people.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: Not only is the men's room in Cabrini Green a great place to get attacked, it's also filthy, smelly, and broken-down.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Being played by Tony Todd means Candyman has a very deep voice this is an aversion from the original short story where even his voice sounds sugary sweet.
  • Fan Disservice: Helen is arrested and stripped by the police. The fact that the beautiful Virginia Madsen is naked is quite overshadowed by the fact that she is crying and covered in blood. Ten minutes after this scene, however, there's a scene of her taking a bath that is so blatantly Fanservice that it seems like an apology.
  • Fantastic Noir: The first film plays out partially like Film Noir. It figures considering its director had directed the Film Noir film Chicago Joe and the Showgirl a couple years prior to the release of this film.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: In the film, Candyman wears a large, fur-laden longcoat which some critics derisively compared to a Blaxploitation character.
  • Final Girl: Subverted in the first film, but played completely straight in the second and third.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The biggest threat to Candyman's existence in the movie is that people will stop believing in him, and the situation's quasi-religious nature is played to the hilt.
  • Groin Attack: A very disturbing example happens to a mentally disabled kid in a park restroom.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: After Helen dies, Trevor seems to feel pangs of guilt for how he treated her. Then he chants her name in front of the mirror...
  • The Hero Dies: Helen herself at the end of the first film. It also partially counts as a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Helen Lyle, due to being suspected for the murders.
  • Hook Hand: Candyman's weapon of choice.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight with the baby Helen rescues in the film, but super averted in the short story.
    • Also averted with the boy who has a run-in with Candyman in the restroom.
  • Kill It with Fire: The way they deal with Candyman at the end. Unfortunately, Helen dies that way as well... resulting in her vengeful spirit to be Wreathed in Flames with Flaming Hair.
    • Averted in the short story, where Helen dies in the bonfire, trapped by Candyman who can't be destroyed by a simple fire.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Partially how Candyman came into existence. The original "Candyman" was a young, well-to-do black man who fell in love with a white woman (who is implied to have borne a striking resemblance to Helen). Her disapproving father hired some thugs to hack off his right hand and cover him in honey, attracting bees that stung him to death. Legend did the rest. This is only in the movie, as Candyman has no origin in the short story.
  • Magic Mirror: Candyman can be summoned from any mirror.
    • And of course he has his own magic mirror that harbors his very soul, previously owned by the farm plantation's daughter.
  • Mirror Monster: Saying Candyman's name five times in front of a mirror will summon the killer who will slay you with his Hook Hand. At the end of the movie, Helen has become a vengeful spirit who can be summoned the same way.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Referenced:
    Helen Lyle: Yeah, but y'know what bugs me about the whole thing? Two people get brutally murdered and the cops do nothing, but a white woman goes in there and gets attacked and they lock the place down.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: Candyman is effectively a mashup of various urban legends such as Bloody Mary, the Hook-Handed Man and the razorblades in the Halloween candy. This is pointed out in the short story by Trevor.
  • Murder Into Malevolence:
    • Candyman was a freedman raised in "polite society", i.e. white society, who fell in love with a plantation owner's daughter while painting her portrait. When she became pregnant, her father had a mob chase him down and brutally murder him. End result: he became a murderous spirit who now only cares to "empower his myth" by hunting down anyone who chants his name five times into a mirror and gutting them with a hook.
    • Candyman invokes this trope himself in the first film: he torments and ultimately causes the violent death of the female protagonist. The twist ending reveals she too becomes a murderous spirit.
  • One Phone Call: Played with. After Helen is arrested by the police on murder charges and informed of her Miranda rights, she asks for a phone call to contact her husband, but it's never stated that she has any rights to one or that it's the only one she'll get.
  • Race Lift: The Candyman in Barker's original story had been described as an imposing possibly white man (he is described as having a rather unnatural shade of yellow that of course adds to his candy theme) with an unruly red beard.
  • Scary Black Man: Tony Todd as the Candyman... and, you know, in general.
  • The Scottish Trope
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: "Sweets to the sweet" is taken from a line from Hamlet.
  • Setting Update: The original story takes place in a fictional British housing project called Bob's Corner in the late 70's, while the movie moves the setting to 90's Chicago and the real life slum of Cabrini Green. The change in setting also makes the bonfire seem out of place, as in the original the bonfire is part of the traditional Guy Fawkes Night celebrations.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Of course.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Anne-Marie's baby.
  • Speak of the Devil: Saying Candyman's name five times into a mirror will summon him, in a nod to the Bloody Mary legend.
  • Spooky Painting: The giant graffiti of Candyman's screaming face that Helen sees in the semi-abandoned projects.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Mortality: As stated above, averted. Among Candyman's many victims are a child, a dog, (attempted) a baby, and (indirectly) the white female protagonist.
  • Sound-Only Death: Candyman's murder of Bernadette.
  • Surreal Horror: Given this film odes to Stanley Kubrick, this can be expected.
  • Tempting Fate: Go Ahead: Say the curse and visit previous murder sites. What Could Possibly Go Wrong??
  • Tragic Villain: Candyman himself. In life, he was simply an artist whose only crime was being a black man who fell in love with a white woman in a racist and intolerant society. He only became an evil and murderous spirit after being hunted down by a lynch mob and brutally executed.
    • Can also apply to Helen at the end of the movie. She started out as a graduate student simply studying an urban myth only to become embroiled in a series of supernatural murders of which she was framed for, leading to her being involuntarily committed and learns her husband had planned to let her rot in there while shacking up with his attractive, young student. She is then killed when burned in the pyre, her final act saving a baby from the flames. She then becomes the "new" Candyman, inadvertently summoned by her husband whom she then guts with Candyman's hook.
  • Trigger Phrase: Saying Candyman's name five times in front of a mirror is what summons him.
    • And Helen at the end of the movie.
  • Truth in Television: Even though the method of killing may have been more "creative" than real life, Candyman's story (minus the supernatural elements) tragically happened many times in U.S. history. From the time of slavery until the mid-20th Century, being involved with a white woman would have been a very good way for a black man to fall victim to a lynch mob.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The film became this with the Cabrini Green housing project, which has since been demolished.
  • Urban Legends: The legend of the Candyman is an In-Universe stand-in for the "Bloody Mary" myth, and a few of the kills that happen on-screen on this and other films in the series occur because of people daring each other. Exploring the application of urban legends as a boogeyman in modern living is the reason Helen becomes involved in the Candyman's horror to begin with, and the "urban" part is highlighted with the fact most of the plot of the first film happens within the (now-demolished) Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Candyman, and by the end of the movie Helen herself.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the end of the film after Helen escapes Candyman's clutches and leaves him to perish alone in the flames.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The entire point of both the short story and the movie, Candyman is myth and urban legend incarnate, and through the fear and belief of the people of Cabrini Green, he'll always have been real.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Candyman became an undead monster after he was murdered by a lynch mob because he was a cultured black man who fell in love with a white woman in the 19th century.
  • Wretched Hive: Cabrini Green, much as it was in Real Life. Helen's thesis is about how the residents use urban legends like Candyman to deal with the constant horrors of living there. Candyman feeds off of their fear to survive, and is vanquished when they burn him in a bonfire.
  • The Worm That Walks: See Bee Bee Gun.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Candyman does not discriminate when choosing victims.


Example of: