The Terrifying Time I Watched Candyman on Painkillers with a Kidney Stone
What turned out to be the perfect combination for the most frightening horror movie experience imaginable is not something I’d recommend.
By Chris Morse
By all standards, Candyman is a classic horror movie through and through. Tony Todd’s chilling rendition of the titular vengeful spirit quickly elevated him to icon status, and with good reason. Now that we’ve established the basics, I want to talk about the time I watched the film during the debilitating period that was my first kidney stone (I would go on to have several more). It was all-around terrifying, and I’m not just talking about the stone. Or maybe I am; I’m not really sure yet.
Boasting a combination of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, illness-inducing narcotics, a distinct lack of sleep, and a dark, quiet evening alone, bed and television were all I had going for me. I eventually settled on watching Candyman, which is as fine a choice as any. Little did I know that the next two hours or so would be filled with the most potent feelings of abject dread imaginable.
I don’t know what it was specifically—it could have been any of the aforementioned circumstances—but whatever part of my brain responsible for feeling scared was amped up and on high alert for even the slightest tinge of suspense. Now, I’m no stranger to horror films, considering I run a horror website in my free time and I grew up in a household filled with horror. Very little from this genre has any effect on me beyond the occasional jump-scare startling, give or take the once-off anomaly like watching The Ring and having the phone ring out of nowhere with dead air on the other end. In the era of landlines, that was more than a tiny bit of an unsettling coincidence.
Back to Candyman, there’s something about drifting in and out of consciousness in between bouts of nausea and waves of fiery pain that creates a horrific experience like no other. Even the suspense of Helen exploring the public restroom at Cabrini-Green was dialed up to 11 and I felt nothing but pure dread at each stall she opened, as though she was about to find something far more terrifying than what is actually shown in the film. A brain in a state of duress can work wonders in this genre.
Following that was what seemed to be a whirlwind of horrific imagery, from Candyman appearing in the parking garage to the decapitated dog and subsequent killings. Few scenes offered any reprieve from the inescapable dread that was my impaired brain playing out its own scenarios with Candyman as a backdrop. I would slightly doze off during quieter scenes, my dreams continuing their own horrifying imaginings of what was transpiring. I’d awake every so often thinking I would find a bee-covered man with a hook for a hand in the room with me, ready to strike me down in gruesome fashion. Sometimes I’d come back to reality in so much pain that it felt like the hook was already cutting into me.
This was not just watching a horror movie, or even sitting down to enjoy a bona fide classic, but rather an overall experience that likely can’t ever be replicated. There was no one particular thing responsible for me feeling scared shitless the entire duration—it was just an unshakable feeling that seeped into my core and wouldn't leave. Since then, Candyman the movie is and always will be a representation of what I felt watching it during that time, more so than simply what it is on screen.
I guess the same is often true for most of the films we watch that leave an impression on us. What we remember about the experience is shaped by the circumstances of us viewing it: what kind of day it was, who we were with, and even surrounding life events. All of those things leave an imprint on how thinking about a past experience like watching a movie makes us feel, and that feeling is the driving force behind what is most memorable to us looking back.
To me, my completely-impaired (both mentally and physically) viewing of Candyman ranks up there as one of my most distinct horror film memories. Having a kidney stone was a rough time, but something about fighting through the ordeal and waiting for it to be over made my movie-watching experience a particularly dreadful one, especially when my brain decided to double down on the imagined horror aspects of it. To be fair, I also watched J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek but it wasn’t nearly as frightening.
All in all, I would not recommend watching Candyman hopped up on narcotics for a kidney stone, unless, of course, you already are and happen to be in need of something to watch while you wait out the pain. In that case, here’s hoping you can capture just a little bit of that same feeling and immerse yourself in terror like I did. I promise you won’t forget it.
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