December is not a time of year that people typically associate with watching horror movies. The holidays are mostly reserved for cozying up with your loved ones and shamelessly rewatching Toy Story and Love Actually until your insides feel like fresh hot chocolate. Not for me, though, not this year. Thanks to a heavy helping of overeducation and underemployment, plus a career-chasing move that took me 1,600 miles away from any friends or family, I’ll be spending this Christmas bitter and alone. And that makes me feel like watching some blood fly.
In turn, I present to you Sara’s 12 Days of Holiday Horror, twelve films (presented in ascending order) to keep you company until the 26th of December, because - let’s face it, honey - no one else is gonna.
Candyman tells the story of Helen Lyle, a graduate student living in Chicago hard at work on her thesis about urban legends. While conducting research, Helen takes a particular interest in the legend of Candyman, a serial killing ghost who preys on the lower income residents of the city with his iron-hook hand. After interviewing the neighbor of a supposed victim, Helen’s intrigue leads her to perform the “summoning ritual” rumored to cause the ghost of Candyman to appear; she stares at a bathroom mirror in the dark and repeats his name five times. When she doesn’t immediately die, Helen giggles off her stunt and casually returns to her life, unaware that she is now permanently bound to the vengeful spirit’s world.
Instead of killing Helen, Candyman uses her as a vessel of violence to murder those around her. In a series of blackouts, Helen decapitates a dog, stabs her best friend and loses track of an infant. Sadly, she has no recollection of her actions and endures absolute shock when charged with murder and kidnapping. With her only colleague dead and her husband quickly shacking up with a younger woman, the imprisoned Helen soon realizes that the only person left in her life is Candyman.
“They will all abandon you,” he says. “All you have left is my desire for you. Come with me, and be my victim.”
Though it begins as a story about possession and ghosts, Candyman grows into a love story. Candyman and Helen are equally broken souls; betrayed and abandoned by everyone in their lives, they find solace only in their long-sought connection to one another. Given the option between life and death, Helen agrees to be killed in exchange for the safe return of the infant she supposedly kidnapped. After accepting that she has no one left, she chooses an eternity in a Hell that is within her control over the unpredictable Hell of mortal life.
Candyman is the first horror movie I ever watched in full. When I was 6 years old, a classmate named Krystal held a birthday slumber party and I was invited. Desperate to keep the throng of little girls out of her house, Krystal’s mother banished us to the motor home in the backyard for the evening. Inside the camper was a small black and white television with a built-in VCR hooked up to an extension cord. Krystal’s oldest sister, “Barbie,” popped in a tape of Candyman (for no reason other than cruelty, obviously) and thus began my horror-watching career. Don’t let my personal connection to the film cause you to doubt it, though; its merits far outweigh my own bias. Candyman is a truly excellent modern horror tale that will send chills up your spine and make you fear public restrooms for many winters to come.
Holiday Horror Score
Red Snow : 2 out of 5. There’s technically zero red snow in this movie, but Helen’s white walls splattered with the blood of her best friend should could for something.
Festive Cheer : 1 out of 5. Not a string of tinsel or gingerbread man in sight, but everyone is dressed in Winter wear.
Chill Factor : 5 out of 5. High tension and creepy storytelling are maintained from start to finish. The turn that the film takes at its midpoint is as satisfying as it is stirring.
Ugly Sweater Cred : 2 out of 5. No reindeer or pine trees, but this is the 90’s after all.