Candyman: How Bernard Rose and Clive Barker Created the Horror Classic


Director Bernard Rose took inspiration for the idea from the urban legend of Bloody Mary, rather than the Clive Barker short story “The Forbidden,” which Candyman was adapted from. 

According to the legend, Bloody Mary’s spectre could be summoned by chanting her name repeatedly into a mirror. One of Rose’s masterstrokes was to assimilate this folklore into the Candyman mythology, although it was not without its teething problems.

“In the original script, they were supposed to say Candyman 13 times, not five times, because in the Bloody Mary legend they say it 13 times,” Rose tells Den of Geek. “During the first read through they started going ‘Candyman, Candyman…’ and I was falling asleep. You can’t do it 13 times. It goes on too long. Five is about the largest number you can hear. It did come from Bloody Mary but I had seen Beetlejuice, so I’d have to say Beetlejuice should probably get some credit.”

Rose first hit upon the idea of adapting “The Forbidden” after he was approached about making a film out of another story from Barker’s lauded Books of Blood anthology, “In the Flesh.” But that story wasn’t quite suited to a cinematic adaptation.

“I thought it was really well written, but impossible to make because it’s about two prisoners in complete darkness in a cell,” he says. “And of course, the one thing you can’t represent in a movie is darkness, because if you are in a movie theater there’s nothing to see. It would make a great radio play but wasn’t really a great idea for a movie.”

It was during his initial research into the Books of Blood that Rose read “The Forbidden,” Barker’s short story about a university student who, while studying and photographing graffiti at a local housing estate, learns from locals about a string of murders attributed to a mythical killer known as Candyman.

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