Horror is a filmmaker’s medium, according to Candyman director Bernard Rose.

When his eerie film debuted in theaters, people thought that scary movies were cheesy and unoriginal; we just asked Rose what drew him to the subgenre. “Most horror movies are terrible, but the ones that aren’t terrible were made by some of the best directors,” He makes mention to Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, and Alfred Hitchcock. “People watch horror movies to experience some sort of visceral reaction, which gives them a very real issue to cope with.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Candyman (1992), a chilling short fiction by Clive Barker titled The Forbidden. Barker’s Scouse horror legend, which was written in the middle of the 1980s under Thatcher’s administration, combined themes of social desertion with otherworldly terror. A well-meaning but inept university researcher named Helen (Virginia Madsen) investigates a deplorable inner-city area in both The Forbidden and Candyman. She finds a demonic presence there, much to her amazement. But The Candyman isn’t your typical ’80s slasher bad guy. He is inspired by gothic literature. He loves to quote Shakespeare and is swooningly attractive. He’s not like Freddy Krueger; more like Count Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera.

Rose purchased the picture rights since she was on good terms with Barker. As a new 4K restoration of the Blu-ray is published, he remarks via Zoom, “I liked the basic premise, the idea that there’s a monster that depends on people’s fear and believe in him in order to survive, and if they were to stop fearing, stop believing in him, that he would cease to exist.”

It could have been problematic to move the story from the UK to America, from a council estate in Liverpool to a housing development in Chicago. Going to Chicago was a bit of a haphazard decision. I visited in order to spy it out and look around. The socioeconomic hardship that I witnessed and experienced in Chicago was quite alarming, Rose recalls. “Obviously, a lot of what was in the movie was based on the actual location and what occurred there. And it gave a completely new element to the plot, namely the racial component, which, in my opinion, made the movie much bigger.

Rose decided to film in the dilapidated Cabrini-Green housing project, so the Candyman had to be portrayed by an African American. There was no chance that it was a white man. It simply wouldn’t make any sense at all, says Rose. Tony Todd became a cultural legend as a result of his beautiful performance, and his casting completely altered the script. “With a short story, you can elaborate, explore topics in more detail, and stage more complex scenes. As opposed to a novel, where you constantly hunt for things to cut. Additionally, you never know if the thing you’re omitting will be what ultimately helps the novel succeed.

Virginia Madsen plays university researcher Helen in ‘Candyman’. CREDIT: Alamy

While we’re talking about casting, Rose wants to dispel the persistent rumor that Eddie Murphy was considered for the role. He doesn’t understand where this egregious foolishness came from. He chuckles, “That whole crap about Eddie Murphy, there’s not a crumb of truth to it. It was never even brought up.

Fear of impoverished areas resonates across national boundaries, making The Forbidden easily translated across the pond. He claims that the Illinois Film Commission wouldn’t enter without an armed police escort. Their scared demeanor simply served to highlight the institutionalized nature of street terror. “We’re afraid of the poor,” Rose goes on, unimpressed at the time by the lack of tact. “I did speak with a woman there, a young mother, and I took her phone number. I later returned on my own after that. As I wasn’t traveling with police, it was a very different experience.

In the current climate, a white British director telling a story against the backdrop of historical and contemporary social issues in America might face a lot of backlash online, but Rose insists that he would make Candyman again today, no problem: “I would make this film today, or something similar. You must keep in mind that Virginia Madsen, a white person entering the room, is the one telling the narrative.

After Nia DaCosta’s sequel from the previous year, I believe there was something about this movie that was slightly missed. It’s a reversal of the “white savior” story, in which a white main character saves characters of another race from challenging situations. Instead, she enters and exacerbates the situation. And in my opinion, that is the movie’s aim.

Candyman had a lasting influence because of Rose’s realistic representation of financial difficulties and his observational camera approach, which combines expressionism and social realism. There is the illogical dread of the Candyman, but there is also the bourgeois fear of the projects, which is at its core, you know, a wonderful example of racism. And in my opinion, it is where the movie’s strength came from.

Rose is favorable about the sequel, which Jordan Peele produced and co-wrote, but he has little good to say about the immediate sequels made in the 1990s. It continues [from the original] in exactly the same way, and Jordan’s picture has an intriguing concept. And many people are unaware that Jordan was working on Candyman prior to the [game-changing 2017 horror] Get Out.

How does it feel to have made a horror movie so highly regarded, canonised as a genre classic, a work that seemed to sense the future and tackled gentrification long before it became a buzzword? “It’s nice to make something that people still like, after all this time. Because, as they say, the alternative is worse. In the end, it’s almost like it’s not your business anymore. Like [the film] leaves home, it’s gone off [to live a life of its own].”