The cult classic horror franchise Candyman returns in 2020, with the Jordan Peele-produced, Nia DaCosta (Little Woods)-directed movie having just dropped its first teaser trailer this week. Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Watchmen), Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk), and original franchise star Tony Todd, Candyman is slated for release on June 12. Originally rumored to be a remake, it’s now being called a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original. Here’s what we know so far.
When the idea of revisiting Candyman was first floated, it was assumed that the new version would be a straight remake – even by original star Tony Todd. The actor went so far as to give his blessing to the new crew and say his goodbyes to Candyman on Twitter. It turns out rumors of a new actor wielding the honey-coated hook were premature (at one point, Peele’s Get Out star Lakeith Stanfield was rumored to be taking over the role). Peele and DaCosta are positioning the new movie as a direct sequel to the 1992 film.
Star Abdul-Mateen II is playing grown-up Anthony McCoy, the baby kidnapped and used as bait by Candyman in the original film (Stanfield was rumored to be up for this role as well). Original star Vanessa Williams also reprises her role of Anthony’s mother, Anne-Marie McCoy.
At the end of the 1992 Candyman (spoiler alert), Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) – the graduate student studying urban legends who revives the ghostly killer – dies from burns she receives when Candyman attempts to immolate the residents of the Cabrini-Green public housing project where the film is set. The final scene shows her distraught husband Trevor (Xander Berkeley) saying her name 5 times in front of a mirror, inviting a scarred Helen to appear and murder him with a hook.
Although Madsen is not returning for the sequel, the character of Helen Lyle is, this time played by Cassie Kramer. Is she an apparition? Were the events at the end of the original some kind of strange dream sequence? Or will the new film incorporate flashbacks to the past? We’ll have to wait and see.
The ending of the original played on a key theme in the work of author Clive Barker – that of the protagonist becoming the thing they are running from or tracking down (see also: Nightbreed and The Midnight Meat Train) – as the film ends with Helen literally becoming a new “Candywoman.” The new trailer seems to hint that Candyman has upped his game a bit. Rather than appear as a physical being, he seems to exist only in reflections and shadows, and judging from the shot where Abdul-Mateen II sees himself as Candyman in a mirror, Anthony McCoy doesn’t appear to become a Candyman surrogate like Helen, but actually the man himself.
The final building of what once comprised the Cabrini-Green housing project on Chicago’s North Side was demolished in 2011. Sandwiched between two wealthy Chicago neighborhoods, Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, Cabrini-Green had always butted up against encroaching gentrification. The attempt to pave over a dark past with trendy cafes and art galleries seems to be a main theme for the new film, which takes place in a now-gentrified neighborhood where Cabrini-Green once stood.
Peele has been very upfront about maintaining the tensions of race and class in the new film. “The original was a landmark film for black representation in the horror genre,” he said in a statement released after the film was announced. “Alongside Night of the Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as filmmaker — and to have a bold new talent like Nia at the helm of this project is truly exciting. We are honored to bring the next chapter in the Candyman canon to life and eager to provide new audiences with an entry point to Clive Barker’s legend.”
Ian Cooper, creative director at Jordan Peele’s production company Monkeypaw, has hinted that entitled fandom will be another subtle thread in the new story. Speaking to Deadline, Cooper said, “We talk a lot about fans and the idea of appeasing fans and when you do that and how do you do that and when do you not do that. I think my issue with fandom is that it’s really problematic. It’s probably the most problematic thing facing the genre.” He went on to indicate how this may come into play in Candyman.
“I think what we’re trying to do with Candyman is both be mischievous in how we address the relationship to the first film but also be very satisfying.”
Like the use of a modified version of The Luniz’s “I Got Five on It” in Us, one of the best parts of the new teaser – as indicated by the #SayMyName hashtag trending on Twitter minutes after it dropped – was the way Destiny’s Child’s 1999 hit “Say My Name” was remixed with composer Philip Glass’ original score for the first Candyman.
Glass released a new recording of the Candyman score in 2016, but it’s unlikely the 83-year-old will have an active role in the new film. Producer Michael Werner Maas is credited as providing the trailer music, and will likely be involved in remixing at least parts of Glass’ score for inclusion in the new film.
As a child in Liverpool, England, the four-year-old soon-to-be-horror author Barker was given some kindly words of advice by his dear, sweet old Nana that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
“My grandmother warned me, I remember, about going into public toilets because there were men who went around in public toilets and cut the genitals off little boys. This was difficult for a four-year-old to take in,” Barker recalls in the making-of documentary Sweets to the Sweet. “It terrified the wits out of me. That was the origin of Candyman.”
Candyman would take the lead in Barker’s 1984 short story “The Forbidden,” which would in turn inspire screenwriter Bernard Rose to take the story of a hook-handed urban legend haunting a rundown housing estate in downtrodden, industrial 1970s Liverpool and re-set it within the walls of the equally troubled Cabrini-Green housing project outside Chicago in the 1990s.
The original publication (in a collection called Books of Blood) featured haunting illustrations from artist John Stewart, which appear to get a visual shout-out via some of the graffiti glimpsed in the new trailer.
Candyman wasn’t a monster box office success in 1992 (it made about $25.8 million in its domestic release), but it did well enough to earn a theatrically released sequel in 1995’s Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (29%), which only grossed $13.9 million. The final entry was a forgettable 1999 straight-to-video installment called Candyman: Day of the Dead (10%). Despite that, the original film, which stands at 75% on the Tomatometer, and the character himself have become iconic in their own right, so while the new film could easily best the box office performance of its predecessors, it will still have to pass muster with adoring horror buffs who may be prone to eye the new project with, at best, cautious optimism.
Candyman opens on June 12, 2020.