“An entire community starts attributing the horrors of their daily lives to a mythical figure…”
Grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is obsessed with all-things urban legendary (sound familiar?). She and her thesis partner, Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) delve into the local legend of the Candyman. Tormenting unfortunate Chicagoans with his hook-hand, Candyman haunts the Cabrini-Green housing project. Saying his name five times into a mirror will summon him and start a murderous reign of terror. Helen dares to say, “Candyman” five times into a mirror. The consequences are chilling, to say the least.
It’s important to remember a few key things about Helen. First, she’s ruthless (watch the video). She willingly jeopardizes her own safety and the safety of a child to get to the ugly truth behind an urban legend – a story that, by definition, is not true. Second, she’s got rage brewing under the surface. Her husband, Trevor (Xander Berkeley) is probably (obviously) sneaking around with a cute student of his. The affair is apparent from the first time we meet Trevor, but Helen easily accepts his explanation for what isn’t (definitely is) happening. For someone so strong-headed, Helen acts like a bit of a twit where her marriage is concerned. Finally – and this might be the most important part – she is a workaholic. Even before her visions of Candyman, Helen is a woman possessed.
Is Candyman real? Helen certainly seems to think so, and so do the inhabitants of the infamous Cabrini-Green complex. Although Helen is a rational, strong-willed woman up until her bathroom meeting with the fake Candyman, she suddenly turns into a woman that cannot string together one thought from the last. Is it possible that Helen herself is the Candyman?
Dissociative Identity Disorder
A mental illness called dissociative identity disorder – known still as multiple personality disorder in some circles – could be the creepy culprit.
Memory Loss –
A hallmark sign that someone has a dissociative disorder is loss of memory. We’re not talking about that foggy feeling you get before you take that first sip of coffee or mixing up a phone number with a password code; this is a lot more significant, gravitating toward blackouts that cannot be explained by drugs or alcohol. Helen wakes up covered in blood in someone else’s apartment and that is just the beginning of her literal and figurative mess.
Out-of-Body Experiences –
One nudge that supports our heroine suffering from dissociative identity disorder lies in the filmmaking process. Director Bernard Rose supposedly had actress Virginia Madsen hypnotized before filming certain scenes. This act of making the woman behind Helen succumb to an out-of-body experience contributed to her on-screen performance of a woman plagued by similar experiences.
Though not a direct symptom of any dissociative disorder, stress is usually to blame for the onset of any illness. While working on a difficult thesis project, Helen also discovers that her husband is probably (DEFINITELY) cheating on her. This would explain why following an encounter with some hook-toting hooligans, Helen suddenly starts having blackouts and out-of-body experiences. Maybe it is not such a coincidence after all.
The Candyman Can
At the end of the day, it’s difficult to say what is really behind this nasty urban legend. If you consider that Helen might be taking on more than she bargained for, it is possible that she is also attributing the horrors of her own daily life to a mythical figure.