Final Girl Friday: Helen Lyle, Candyman (1992)

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!*

The Girl

Helen Lyle, Candyman (1992)

The Situation

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.

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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. 

You can read my review of Candyman here, if you fancy.

Candyman (Film) Review: Halloween Special 

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My penultimate Blogtober 2016 post and I thought I’d ‘review’/pay homage to one of my all-time favourite horror movies.

We watched it again this Saturday night as part of our Halloween Movie Marathon. One member of the group had never seen it, which is always fun to witness and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen it in its entirety so I was delighted to get stuck in again. I did worry it might not stand up after nearly 15 years and, well, the questions is: did it?

Hmm, to the evidence!

*Spoilers*

Candyman (1992)

Director: Bernard Rose
Stars: Virginia Madsen, Xander Berkeley, Tony Todd, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams

IMDB Synopsis: The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.

My Review:

Oh but where to start? Helen (Madsen) and her BFF, Bernie (Lemmons) are researching urban legends for a thesis paper. They’re having lots of fun gathering tales from the younger students on campus and smoking cigarettes, of which there is a constant stream.

Luckily, Helen looks fucking cool with a cigarette in her hand*. It is also worth noting that the camera is in love with her face, which is that of an old-school starlet and perfect, dammit.

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Already thinking about her next fag

Helen is married to university lecturer Trevor (Berkeley) who is the most pathetic cliché you can imagine. He’s just started teaching urban legends to his students, even though Helen has asked him to wait until she’s finished her paper. You will hate Trevor with the fire of a thousands suns, and you will enjoy every moment of his inevitable downfall.

Helen is suspicious of some of Trevor’s behaviour but her thesis is keeping her busy. Especially since the same name seems to be cropping up the more they chat to the locals. Can you guess what it is? Helen learns more about the Candyman in connection to a murder at Cabrini Green and does what any junior sleuth with an invested interest in a good story would do: forces her best friend to accompany her to the scene of the crime.

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There have got to be easier ways to conjure up a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

Before they gather up their detective kits, Helen and Bernie work out that Helen’s posh gentrified building is a carbon copy of the apartments in Cabrini, meaning that she has a little insight into how they’re set out. This will see her well in the future but while they’re titting about in Helen’s bathroom, they say Candyman’s name into the mirror five times, having learned this is how you invoke his fine arse. I mean, evil presence.

Bernie fails to say it the fifth time, but Helen completes the incantation. Bad idea, love.

To Cabrini Green! Cabrini is a run-down housing project on the North-side of Chicago, and Helen’s type just isn’t welcome there (e.g. white, rich women). She’s remarkably feisty though and ignores the jeers and warnings of the youths at the entrance, bowling straight up to the apartments. The girls find the murder scene in question, which is covered in graffiti about Candyman. It’s a bad scene, man but doesn’t give much away.

They also meet one of the neighbours, Anne-Marie (Williams) who’s not best pleased about the snooping but warms to them eventually. She has an adorable new baby and a big dog. There’s also a local kid hanging around who’ll later turn out to be the worst lookout in the history of movie lookouts.

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“I swear it’s not what it looks like!”

I don’t think I need to tell you that Candyman (Todd) isn’t one to stay away too long and soon pays Helen a visit. This is after she’s had a run in at Cabrini with some of what he likes to call his ‘disciples’. They’re a gang who use the legend of Candyman to intimidate and reap the rewards of ruling the neighbourhood. Seems legit.

Helen doesn’t want to run away with Candy even though he is a charismatic man with a sympathetic backstory, which she now knows. He fucks with her head instead and frames her for a crime she can’t remember committing. He’s a scamp, this one.

Some more shit goes down, resulting in an incarceration, Trevor reveals his true colours and Helen is forced to make some serious life choices in order to clear her name – I think I’ll leave it here but rest assured, justice is served and Helen is a fucking badass.

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Get you a man who’s buzzed to be with you

My Thoughts:

It’s reassuring to know that I remembered this being a fantastic film, and it really is. It’s also very socially aware, commenting on white privilege, gentrification, poverty, etc. It’s topical today, right down to the way in which Helen is treated when they think she’s committed a series of horrific crimes (White), while nobody really gives a fuck about what’s going on at Cabrini (Black).

Candyman isn’t a nice guy obviously but his backstory is steeped in folklore and it’s good to have a classic horror villain that you feel something for. I mean, sure I fancy him but I sympathise too, he was a victim of the system as much as his disciples on the ground are, and they all have cause to be fucking angry. Maybe lighten up on the women killing and baby kidnapping though, yeah?

There’s an undertone of vengeance you can see coming a mile off but it is so satisfying you won’t mind one bit. A nineties horror that holds up, bothers to pick up on the tone of the day and builds up your interest in its central characters over gratuitous nudity and teens being over-sexed (not a bad thing, there’s a place for that too). It felt refreshing at the time and it’s still awesome.

My Ratings: 5/5. Fucking ace. Stands up tall, still freaks me out and makes me whoop at the end. Thank you, Mr. Barker (he wrote the story, innit).

What have you been watching this Halloween? 🎃🕷😱🕸📺⚰️

*Smoking kills, don’t do it. Or do, it’s your choice.