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Candyman: one of the horror genre’s most recognisable costumes

FILM COSTUME REVIEW Candyman  Run time: 1h 39mins Who: Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, Ted Raimi Where: Now streaming on Apple TV Rating: One-coat wonder

When it comes to horror movie costumes, the villains are usually have the most memorable outfits.

You might like some of the other outfits in 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street, for example, but the one that is burned into your memory is Freddy Krueger’s iconic red-and-green-striped jumper and fedora.

Krueger’s look breaks the status quo set by the other characters’ fairly normal 1980s wardrobes, further enforcing his menace and supernatural nature.  

Candyman: one of the horror genre’s most recognisable costumes

Freddy Krueger’s striped top and hat are iconic.

This tradition of horror movie costuming also applies to the now 30-year-old slasher Candyman.

Released in October 1992, the film centres around Helen (Virginia Madsen) and her graduate study on a local myth, in which a man with a hook hand comes to kill people who say his name five times in the mirror. She tries this one day, summoning the titular Candyman (Tony Todd).

There are plenty of things to like in this movie, including the memorably chilling score by Philip Glass. However, the one element that outshines all the rest is the Candyman himself.

Todd’s performance is the movie’s best, perfectly communicating the character’s threatening yet enticing nature. His backstory is also engaging, and not knowing it upon a first viewing gives it an even greater impact. Being such a great horror villain, naturally he also has a great costume.

Candyman: one of the horror genre’s most recognisable costumes

The Candyman’s long back coat is instantly recognisable.

In every appearance, Todd wears a long black coat. Although this might sound boring if you’ve never seen the movie, the details really do elevate this look. The closure, collar and sleeves are all lined with shearling. The leather contrasts with the woollen coats the other characters wear.

There is even an element of fashion history to the coat, with the puritan collar being obviously reminiscent of 17th-century menswear. The rest of the costume enhances the classy aesthetic at play: Todd’s black formal pants and white cravat are beautiful yet subtle, letting the coat shine.

Every once in a while, a single movie costume is by far its most iconic. One of the more obvious examples of this century is Kate Hudson’s yellow evening dress in the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003). In a movie with otherwise unremarkable costume design, this dress caught audience’s attention, and years later it is still loved by fans. 

Candyman: one of the horror genre’s most recognisable costumes

Helen (Virginia Madsen) in her woollen coat.

It might sound like an insult to praise a movie for a single costume among hundreds or even thousands, but this point counts in the movie’s favour; a stand-out costume stands out because it is supposed to communicate a character’s unique qualities or a special moment in their life.

In the case of Candyman, the coat stands out not just because it communicates the character’s frightening nature, but because it tells the audience a lot about the specific circumstances of the Candyman’s life. 

Director Bernard Rose said the idea of the costume was “to show that he was quite bourgeois, like he was on his way to the opera”.

He’s a successful, affluent man dressed to the nines, so you notice the splatters of blood on one of his cuffs. The juxtaposition between the clean, refined look of the coat itself and the bloody, murderous baggage attached to it is fascinating.

Although the movie has plenty to recommend it, the titular Candyman’s coat is arguably the most recognisable part. Like Krueger’s jumper and fedora, his excellent costume creates an instantly recognisable image that the public keeps in their minds for decades to come.

Give Candyman a watch this Halloween, perhaps even as a double feature with the 2021 remake. Come for the awesome coat, then stay for a super fun Ted Raimi cameo.


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