We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Urban legends tap our deepest fears, and one of the most subterranean involves the call for help that is laughed at or ignored. We cry out again and again, only to be dismissed by our friends, or the 911 operator, or strangers on the shore. At the beginning of Bernard Rose's "Candyman," we hear an urban legend about a woman in a high-rise public housing project, who calls for 911 but is not taken seriously. Not long after, her body is found, savagely slashed to death. The Candyman has struck again.
Who is the Candyman? According to the movie, he is a powerful supernatural being who haunts Cabrini-Green, the housing complex on Chicago's Near North Side. He lures victims with candy, or puts razor blades in Hollywood treats - the details are vague and dreamlike - and his lair is an abandoned apartment on one of Cabrini's upper floors.
All of this information is carefully written down by two researchers from the University of Illinois (Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons), as part of a research project that also touches on such matters as alligators in sewers. Madsen, trapped in an unhappy marriage with a philandering professor, throws herself into her work, dragging Lemmons along as they interview the neighbors of the Candyman's latest victim. Oddly enough, their stories seem to support the legend - even though the theory is that these urban tales never quite check out.
Rose is a director who likes stories about supernatural invasions of real life. His brilliant "Paperhouse" (1989), about a young girl whose drawings seemed to influence the life of a boy in her feverish dreams, used images of razor-sharp reality to suggest that the dreams were as real as the rest of the movie. "Candyman," from Rose's own screenplay, based on a Clive Barker story, does the same thing. We think we'll discover that the Candyman is actually a real, live human being - a killer using the legend as a cover. What we do discover is more frightening, and more intriguing. He may literally be a product of the imagination.
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