Candyman is a film that puts the “urban” into urban legend, with a suave eponymous antagonist sporting of all things, a hook for a hand laying waste to occupants of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago.

Horror above all else, prioritizes setting over character investment – or at least, can get away with having done so. But Candyman invests heavily in both. Luckily for us.

An urban legend folklorist, Helen Lyle, similar to Jan Harold Brunvand (who authored a very entertaining series of books on the subject), is researching apocryphal tales as part of her University of Illinois PhD thesis. And a particular name keeps coming up, a slave descendent “Candyman” who like former heavyweight boxing champ “The Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson, paid the price for cavorting with a white woman.

And he’s a figure who’s haunting housing projects and is the stuff of…well…legend.

Based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forgiven,” Candyman adroitly plays with themes of poverty, race, gentrification, inside/outside group dynamics.

But it’s more than that. It’s a film that’s also set against a backdrop of cutthroat publish-or-perish academe, in which do-gooding sociology studies build immense social capital (if not affordable housing) for those concerned. And different principals weigh in on urban blight as self-described experts, from the cozy confines of ivory towers.

The Windy City has provided colour to horror films including site favorites, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Child’s Play. And it’s a character unto itself.

Candyman has atmosphere to spare, as gritty and dirty a flick as Street Trash and then some. And of course, Tony Todd cuts such a terrific and memorable figure as the titular villain.

Candyman is also one of the very top supernatural horrors of all time, and despite critical lauding, remains somewhat under the radar especially when compared to other 90s efforts like Scream.

****1/2 (out of 5)

Published by Really Awful Movies

Genre film reviewers covering horror and action films. Books include: Mine's Bigger Than Yours! The 100 Wackiest Action Movies and Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons.

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