For me, it is always nice to see horror movie characters who are smart and reasonable, and the two main characters of “Candyman,” Helen (Virginia Madsen) and Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), are such ones. They are graduate students who have been researching for their doctoral thesis at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and their research subject is, yes, urban legends. When we are introduced to Helen at the beginning of the film, she is listening to a young female student who tells her a scary tale about a supernatural entity called Candyman. Helen is only mildly interested because this is just one of many Candyman stories she and Bernadette have collected during their ongoing research.
According to those Candyman tales, he will come to whoever dares to summon him by saying his names five times while looking into mirror and then will leave a bloody carnage behind him. As your reasonable intellectuals, Helen and Bernadette do not seriously believe what they hear from their interviews. In fact, they even attempt to call for Candyman in front of a mirror just for little amusement, though Bernadette steps back when she is about to call him five times along with Helen.
In the meantime, Helen happens to learn from one of the janitors working in the university that Candyman is believed to exist by the residents of the Cabrini-Green Housing complex in the Near North Side area of Chicago. They really believe Candyman is living somewhere in the complex, and they also believe that he is responsible for many horrible incidents in their neighborhood – including one ghastly murder case widely reported by the local media not so long ago. As delving more into the dark past of Cabrini-Green, Helen becomes more curious, and then she decides to go there along with Bernadette for collecting any good materials worthy of their thesis, though Bernadette is quite concerned about their safety when they arrive there.
Bernadette’s concern is well-justified. Now its area is changed a lot at present (I was disappointed when I happened to pass by the area in the middle of my Chicago trip during April 2010), but, the Cabrini-Green Housing Complex, whose population mainly consisted of low-income African American people, was one of the most criminally notorious housing complexes in USA. The movie gives us some vivid glimpses of this dangerous neighborhood in the early 1990s. While gang members often hang around the front entrances of those shabby apartment buildings, there are dark, dirty, and deserted places you do not dare to enter, and the mood becomes all the more unnerving as Helen and Bernadette go inside these places just for their academic interest and benefit.