The de rigueur horror movie prologue establishes both the mythos of the titular bogey and the sex appeal of the bad boy type, which will be more fully developed once the audience meets protagonist Helen (Virginia Madsen), a sheltered academic doing research into urban legends. Helen is one of those white women whose self-loathing notions of progress involve half-hearted shows of solidarity with those less fortunate than herself, particularly when they are non-white – all while maintaining her own distant, privileged standard of living, her friendship with token college mulatto Bernie (Kasi Lemmons) being her sole concession to her own expectation that she ought to associate with them and view them as her equals.
This changes, however, as Helen continues to delve further into the mystery of the Candyman (Night of the Living Dead’s Tony Todd), a legendary murderer reputed to haunt a Chicago housing project called Cabrini Green. After learning a few further details about the phantom of the ghetto from a cleaning lady – her only contact with the world of real blacks – Helen is sufficiently aroused that she decides to do a little on-the-scene investigation and first-hand anthropological research in the ominous, gang-dominated tenement of horrors. The idea of a supernatural African serial killer excites her, and to the extent that Candyman reinforces the Hebrew myth of the beautiful blonde sophisticate’s secret wish to be ravaged by thuggish blacks, the film respects the politically correct orthodoxies.
The Helen character is a latent mudshark, clearly attracted to the hypnotic and Dracula-like mojo of the Candyman. The cast-and-crew commentary track provides some insights into the thought processes lurking behind the lurid premise. “His attack is, um, openly sexual, you know,” says writer-director Bernard Rose. “He has basically this sort of huge cock on his hand and, um, he kills people by sticking it in them, in their orifices. That’s part of the appeal of the movie, I think that’s partly why people like it.” Rose may even reveal a hint of his own arousal by the character with his inclusion of a scene in which a Jewish-looking psychiatrist (Stanley DeSantis) whimpers as he is abruptly punctured and replumbed from behind by the phantom’s big, black hook.
People are frightened of “the wrong part of town” […] That fear is very real. And the fact that it’s really, in reality, unfounded, uh, makes it more interesting, not less, because an irrational fear, in a sense, is the very fundamental building block of racism. And I think that the film, in a sense, then, […] became a kind of rather subtle way of actually, um, exploring what is really the dark heart of American history, which is a country built on slavery.A few minutes later, however, Rose goes on to contradict his own assertion that fear of “the wrong part of town” is, “in reality, unfounded,” when he fumbles through a discussion of the film’s location shooting in one of Chicago’s most crime-infested neighborhoods:
Cabrini Green was – it’s a real housing project, south of downtown Chicago, just by the Gold Coast, where there had been, uh, you know – the place had become – really suffered from the most extreme kind of urban blight, and you had large numbers of people housed in there who were living in, um, uh, pretty appalling conditions. […] There were, like, you know, uh, gangs in the neighborhood that would essentially make it unpoliceable. It was a dangerous place. It was a place where people would get shot for no good reason.
The Candyman is born of extreme racism against him, and so he takes, kind of, that hatred and […] it’s become a part of his monstrousness. And so, I guess, that’s saying that we [i.e., members of the audience] are breeding monsters, you know, we are making monsters by our [i.e., white America’s] past hatred, um, and we’re [i.e., whites are] responsible. You know, we’re responsible for the Candyman. We’re responsible for the monsters that we create.Helen, a liberal shitshark who feels conflicted at encountering such an obvious display of African savagery, can console herself, based on the above societal monster-creation thesis, that she and not her attackers is to blame for what has occurred because she is the one who created them. Helen is given the chance to live out the fantasy of herself-as-monster when she finds herself suspected of a series of bloody murders. On the surface, this is the story of a woman who finds herself wrongly accused – and this is the position that actress Virginia Madsen takes, as she confides during the commentary – but, on another level, Candyman can be read as the subjective account of an insane person who blacks out – no pun intended – and goes berserk, with no memory of her reprehensible actions. According to the latter interpretation, the Candyman is a figment of the protagonist’s imagination, and all of the acts committed by him onscreen are in actuality Helen’s doing.
And notwithstanding the movie’s stated anti-racist intentions, its grotesque depiction of a representative shitshark as a knife-wielding, infant-pilfering, stall-peeping, and amnesia-prone madwoman can hardly have been the public image Coudenhove-Kalergi had in mind for the recruitment of the mothers of his future race of mongrel Jew-worshippers. Those really murdered by the miscegenators, of course, are their own unborn posterity of European racial integrity – but luckily not much of the typical mudshark’s squandered genetic material is in same league as that on display in the person of Candyman inamorata Virginia Madsen.