Thursday, October 3

31 Horror Movies in 31 Days : Candyman

Rhiannon: When I was in elementary school I wasn't allowed to watch Candyman, but my neighbors were and they told me all about it. I was terrified without even having seen the movie. It was exactly what Candyman would have wanted: that his legend alone was enough to instill fear in a person. To this day I know adults that are afraid of Candyman even though the movie itself isn't all that scary.

The thing that's so frightening about this movie is that the fear it creates is the same kind of fear that comes from the legends that the movie uses as its framing device. These legends are creepy, eerie stories almost too disturbing to be true, but somebody knows somebody, another person read about it somewhere, and the whole tale dates so far back that it's not like you can just look it up to see if its true without visiting an archive and doing some serious research. You don't believe it, of course you don't, but it's not completely out of the realm of reality that perhaps, maybe the story has some seed of truth...

It's not difficult to pick out the problematic racist ass, sexist ass, classist ass shit that permeates the film, and halfway through I couldn't help myself and got on my university's library website to search for academic articles that discussed the film. Call it intellectual curiosity, but let's be real: it's a little bit of some pretentious ass, academic douche bag bullshit, which is excellent because in addition to Candyman being a great horror movie, it's also a pretty solid lampoon of academics.

Most of the main cast of characters are graduate students and professors, all too intellectual for their own good. It's Helen's own intellectual curiosity/pompous ass, academic douche bag bullshit that gets her and everyone she knows into trouble. Her doctoral thesis seeks to expose something new about the Candyman urban legend by discussing how it and legends like it are based in the real-life fears of the lower-class people of Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood. The result of this thesis disproves the possibility that the Candyman story has any truth to it, and when it's poised to be published, the Candyman appears. The real Candyman. And he's pretty bummed out that Helen's been working so hard to make him disappear.

Kiah: The idea that a belief keeps a legend/myth/god alive is pretty common, most familiar to me in the themes of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. As in the novel, when modern society dispels their beliefs in old, primal legends, those legends have no choice but to strike back at the new gods: intellectualism, affluence, material wealth. As usual, the old legends pretty much clean house until the modern human has no choice but to abandon their comfortable lives and embrace THE PAIN AND WHAT COMES BEYOND IT.

I've never done Bloody Mary. I've never repeated any words in a bathroom mirror, lights on or off. I know that's completely irrational, but I can't help the clammy feeling of dread that happens when I'm in a dark bathroom near a mirror. There's nothing at all plausible about the Candyman/Bloody Mary legend, but there's a tiny voice in my head that will always insist that story had to have started somewhere. No thanks. I'm not saying I made it to 30 because I've dodged nightmarish mirror-monsters with cunning avoidance of darkened bathrooms, but... well the results speak for themselves.

Rhiannon: That's what I just said!

Kiah: Also, points for Philip Glass' AMAZING score, as well as stand-out performances by Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen.

Rhiannon: *****/***** Kiah: ****/*****

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