Most Traumatizing Movie: CANDYMAN
It’s almost Halloween time, folks, and in the spirit of the season, we at Screen Invasion are taking a look back at what movie messed us up the worst during our precocious years. This writer has seen many horror flicks despite her distaste for them. Weird, right? The most traumatizing – to this day – is Candyman.
Candyman is based on Clive Barker’s short story, “The Forbidden.” Graduate student Helen Lyle is doing research on urban legends. She comes across an intriguing tale about a murderous specter who brutally executes whomever says his name five times in front of a mirror. She soon finds herself entranced by the Candyman and unwittingly gets entangled in the legend itself.
This writer, dear readers, first watched Candyman when she was maybe seven or eight years old. These impressionable years somehow became the optimal time where she would watch practically every horror classic that came on TV at night. Poltergeist came on so many times, it became a campy popcorn flick with suspenseful music, flashing lightning, and loud sound effects one would hear played in a loop at an amateur haunted house. Candyman, however, made an indelible impression.
A seven-year-old in the 90s would not pick up on sociological commentary played out throughout the movie, maybe unless he or she was actually living in a place like Cabrini Green, the setting for most of the Candyman murders. Instead, that seven-year-old would immediately identify the perils of chanting a certain name into the mirror a number of times. We all know the game Bloody Mary: you recite “Bloody Mary” three time in front of your bathroom window, and you’ll be visited by a forlorn woman either there to harm you or take you away to the other side. Playing Candyman has more…dire results. Actually, this movie is the entire reason why this writer never played Bloody Mary. Would you want to summon an entity who’s just going to gut you with his hook hand? No thank you.
Now to the parts that are truly traumatizing, even to this day.
Candyman is not your typical slasher/gore project. Yes it has those elements, but the truly disturbing lies with Candyman’s true intent. His existence is not to exact revenge, like nearly every horror villain, but to simply continue his notoriety any way he can. As it turns out, the most effective way to maintain his “immortality” is to slaughter those who summon him, thus becoming a cautionary fairy tale of the modern era.
The pain, I can assure you, will be exquisite. As for our deaths, there is nothing to fear. Our names will be written on a thousand walls. Our crimes told and retold by our faithful believers. We shall die together in front of their very eyes and give them something to be haunted by. Come with me and be immortal.
He says lines like this a few times in the movie. Candyman’s former life was that of an artist; however, after his affair with a white woman was discovered, Candyman was at the mercy of a lynch mob. They cut off his painting hand, replaced it with a hook, and then covered him in honey and bees. These said bees stung him to death. Instead of looking for revenge on ancestors of the lynchers, Candyman decides he wants to remain in the world of the living by maintaining a horrific persona. This was his art now: brutalizing his victims with his hook hand, his art hand. Any artist can relate to wanting to be remembered forever through their works, and that’s what’s unsettling about this character.
To further unease your nerves, Candyman isn’t menacing at all. In fact, he’s calm, charismatic, hypnotic, and (dare we say) romantic. This is where Tony Todd, the actor playing Candyman, brings in his theater experience. At the time, he didn’t do just any theater work, he was a Shakespearean actor. Any viewer watching his scenes immediately responds Todd’s commanding presence. You’re intimidated, frightened, and drawn. This is exactly how Helen feels during many encounters with Candyman. Like a fish to a lure, Candyman draws Helen into his arms with a hypnotic glare. With little to no resistance, Helen is his.
Oh. And we must not forget one more thing: he’s freaking filled with bees. There’s a scene where Candyman opens his coat revealing a whole hive of bees in and out of his broken chest cavity. Oh yes, there is one more thing. He open mouth kisses Helen…with the bees inside. SHIVERS!