We reanimate FGF this Halloween with one of the greatest horror heroines of all time, and my personal favourite: Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen).
*Spoilers – beware!*
Helen Lyle, Candyman (1992)
Helen is a grad student researching urban legends for her thesis on… urban legends. One day, along with her BFF Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), she learns about some local folklore that focuses on one individual – The Candyman. Connected supposedly to a murder committed in the housing projects of Cabrini Green, our gal is eager to high tail it over there and snoop about – and work out how a myth can have such a hold on the crumbling community. But is it really fiction?
Things take a terrible turn when Helen completes the Candyman incantation in her own bathroom mirror – and receives a visit from the old pal she didn’t even know she had. I wouldn’t even write it down here in this post to be honest, but I think you might know it by now. It goes: Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, etc.
Meanwhile, she’s forced to confront her cheating husband and his new (younger) girlfriend, take on the angry residents of Cabrini, and try and keep out of prison/the mental hospital at the same time. Give her a goddamn break, guys.
The Final Girl
First off, Helen is a classy dame and cut from Old Hollywood cloth. She’s all enormous green eyes, blonde pin curls and milky skin. You’re damn right I have a crush on her and you can’t blame The CM for wanting a piece too. Unfortunately, our antagonist could do with a lesson in consent and when he takes everything from her and tells her that all she has left is his desire for her, I had to scoff. FUCK YOU BUDDY.
Helen is a great final girl because she’s been fucked over so many times but still does the right thing. Where a lot of other people would give up, she keeps on keeping on because she’s a good person. Me? I’d be torn between embracing padded cell life and going on a final bloody rampage because fuck everybody who doubted me.
Our girl’s been framed for dog murder, the murder of her own best friend (devastating) – and baby kidnapping. She’s been cheated on, institutionalised (not to mention had her beloved fags confiscated) and stalked by an admittedly buff but relentless hook-handed suitor. She’d be forgiven for succumbing to the madness but she doesn’t, she carries on and saves the day.
When it comes to the classic Final Girl trope it is often said that she doesn’t always survive and sometimes has to push moral boundaries. Helen is a smart cookie and a generally good person, however she becomes something quite different at the end of this movie. She may go out of her way to save the baby and destroy Candyman, thus freeing the residents of Cabrini from his evil lore – but she’s also not afraid to take some cheeky revenge for herself. You can decide if Trevor’s punishment matches his crimes.
Final Girl Rating
5/5. The yardstick by which all wannabe Final Girls should be measured.