Back in the mid-nineties, I was on a trip to Florida with my family. We stayed in a motel at the midpoint before driving on the next day. Before we left the motel that morning, everyone met in my aunt and uncle’s room. My cousin was putting the finishing touches of her make-up on in the mirror. I stood beside her and said “Candyman” into the mirror the requisite five times (this is solely from the movie and not Clive Barker’s story “The Forbidden” from which it was adapted).
My cousin did not like my shenanigans, but she got over it. We set out on the interstate and didn’t stop until we were in downtown Miami. Having been all that way with no rest breaks, we converged on a gas station whose shared bathroom was little more than a hole in the floor. The ladies made use of the facilities first. When my cousin came out of the restroom, she was rather pale and spooked. On my turn for the restroom, I understood why. Written, in giant letters, on the walls, starting at the door and going all around the bathroom until it circled back to the door was one word: CANDYMAN.
Was it a coincidence? Yes. Did something supernatural put that one word, said on a whim, as a joke, on walls of that restroom in Miami, Florida? I want to say no, but stranger things have happened. One thing I do know, I’ve never said “Candyman” five times in a mirror, again, since that day.
In the movie, Helen Lyle is writing her thesis on urban legends. She is most concerned with the myth of the Candyman who is said to haunt Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. She and her friend, Bernadette, conduct interviews in their investigation of the myth and the possibility the murders attributed to him have a human hand involved.
Curiosity, and the chance to one-up a snob professor, sends them to Cabrini-Green and the abandoned apartment of the murdered Ruthie Jean. They discover the apartment is accessible to the abandoned one next to it by removing the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. It would provide ample entrance for a murderer on the prowl.
Crawling into the vacant place next door, Helen discovers the apartment has been converted into a sort of temple. Graffiti on the walls revere Candyman and sweets and razor blades are left as offerings.
Helen can’t stay away from Cabrini-Green and the Candyman legend. She befriends single mom Anne-Marie, who knew Ruthie Jean, and Jake, who shows her around the community and its points of interest. Thanks to Jake she meets someone who just may be the murderer. But then there’s also the problem of this other person, a more mesmerizing, man who appears to her.
Candyman is a seminal movie and the best film adaptation of any of Barker’s works to date (I’m including the author’s own adaptations also). The touches on the power of myth and superstition and how human souls are all the same despite outward appearance. It’s also a bloody good time. The killer may be suave, but he carries one hell of a big hook.