Horror was considered a debased genre in the early 90s and people were looking for a new direction. I found a story in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood collection that I thought had potential: The Forbidden, about a middle-class women fascinated by a Merseyside housing estate. I knew Clive a little, so he gave me a free option. After the nightmare he had had on Hellraiser, where it was redubbed into American English, I decided to set the film in the US.
Propaganda Films, a forward-thinking production company who were doing Twin Peaks, bought it on the spot. I picked Chicago to set it in quite randomly, simply because it was a place I’d heard of. I asked the Illinois Film Commission where the worst public housing estate in the city was and they said without pausing, Cabrini-Green.
Police - Escort - Divide - Anything - Liverpool
They wouldn’t let us go there at first without a police escort. The social divide was really extreme compared to anything in a Liverpool housing estate. But despite its reputation, most people there were just getting on with their lives. The fear people had of walking around there was the very essence of racism – it is ultimately based on the fear of the other, or the unknown.
I told Propaganda that Candyman had to be someone African American. But fundamentally, the story is to do with belief and myth more than race We asked the NAACP to vet the script and they had some concerns about the film repeating the trope of the black man as someone to be feared. I argued that a very strange thing happens in horror movies: people actually sort of identify with the boogeyman – it’s him they dress up as, not the victim. And Candyman is almost an avenging angel. Tony [Todd] had such a wonderful handle on...
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