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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

CANDYMAN (1992) and the Missed Opportunity to Engage in Critical Analysis

3.5 Stars

So, to be honest, I had been avoiding this one for a while. I really wasn’t sure how I'd feel about creating a monster out of such a disturbing sympathetic tale. If for some reason you haven't heard it - here goes: 

1890 the son of a former slave turned respectable entrepreneur is lucky enough to be brought up in a life of privilege. Mostly unaware of his own subjection to racism and discrimination, he lives a happy life and becomes well-known for his artistic talents. One day he is commissioned by a rich white man to paint his lovely daughter, but when the two fall in love and she is found to be pregnant, the father will have none of it. The town turns on him and he is chased, tormented, and killed. Legend has it his right hand was cut off and his body was covered with honey to attract the many bees who covered him from head to toe, eventually stinging him to death.

True or not, the story (which has been around since the turn of the century) speaks to anxieties about racial tensions and blacks and whites having to live and work side by side for the first time. For that reason alone, the story is a touchy subject which making it a little difficult to properly represent on-screen without extensively examining issues of race and class overtime.

The 1992 film adaptation, now considered one of the scariest films of all times, is based on Clive Barker's novel of the same name. Needless to say, it does little to consider the contextual and historical factors the legend is tapping into. Worse, the potential to engage in the much needed critical analysis was present within the plot itself, as it followed a graduate student researching the Candyman Legend for her thesis. Instead, she focuses her effort on understanding why all the residents of Cabrini Green, a dangerous ghetto in Chicago, are convinced they are being picked off by the legend himself. Barring the stereotypical depiction of a black "hood", the film seriously undermines Candyman's story by turning him into a Dracula-type romantic killer. 

I had a very difficult time understanding this connection between the legend and his Dracula-esque qualities. It felt like an elementary attempt to center his revenge on his tragically lost love. Mad with passion (presumably she resembles his lost love), Candyman seeks to destroy all of Helen’s life until all she can do is submit to him. Cute.

All in all, I do not regret watching this one, and even find the first half to be a compelling start with a lot of potential. Helen even made for an intriguing female lead, she was strong-minded and willing to push the envelope. 

Sadly I found it all fell apart in act II... SO close, but no cigar (sigh).