Candyman (1992) Story Analysis

Candyman (1992) is an American supernatural horror film, written and directed by Bernard Rose and based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden”. The movie has been recognised as one of the best movies of the horror genre, with the titular character becoming one of the most distinctive as well. 


In Candyman (1992), writer/director Rose transplanted Barker’s original setting from contemporary Liverpool (England) to the Cabrini-Green public housing development in Chicago and focused on the themes of race and social class in the inner-city United States. Thus, the story in Candyman (1992) had to be expanded greatly from the source material.

Candyman (1992) Story Analysis

The protagonist of the story is not the titular character but rather Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a skeptic graduate student researching the Candyman myth. Through her efforts she inadvertently summons the monster and her world is turned upside down. The Candyman (played by Tony Todd) is a murderous soul with a hook for a hand that appears when his name is recited five times in front of a mirror. 

A key aspect of this movie adaptation is the plot element that has Helen being blamed for the Candyman killings, which appears to be the monster’s intent. However, this is incongruent with the Candyman’s own given reason for re-appearance that he need to kill in order to carry on his myth which Helen had been trying to disprove. 

Candyman (1992) Story Analysis

In addition, the fact that the Candyman is a supernatural being is again rendered non-sensical when in the final act, he is destroyed by fire (!) – why that would be the case is not satisfactorily explained whatsoever. Nothing in the backstory had suggested that the Candyman had any weaknesses or there was a means by which to destroy him. Thus, the ending is illogical and thus weak. 

That all said, the character of Helen Lyle is a suitably tragic one – the irony being that as she became intent to research the Candyman and thereby disprove the myth, she assumed his mantle as a bogeyman and supplanted him. At the same time, the Candyman character is unique, especially thematically, in the context of racial history in the USA. This theme is explored further in the 2021 sequel

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