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SYFY WIRE Candyman

Candyman: What to know about Nia DaCosta's highly anticipated sequel to the cult horror classic

By Nivea Serrao
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Candyman

Classic horror is having a bit of a resurgence right now. The Scream franchise will welcome a new movie in 2022, and I Know What You Did Last Summer has been adapted into a TV series — even the Wrong Turn movies are getting a revival. 

Joining this list is Candyman, a direct if not spiritual sequel to the 1992 classic, written by Nia DaCosta (Captain Marvel 2 aka The Marvels), Jordan Peele (Nope), and Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone), with DaCosta also having directed the movie. 

Peele, who also produced the movie, has said before that he has a deep connection to the film and the representation it provided Black audiences, even noting that his Academy Award-winning breakout film, Get Out, would not exist without it. 

"I think the reason I love the original Candyman is, for better or worse, it broke us out of the box," said Peele last year. "How do I tell a story with a Black villain in a world that has exhausted the villainization of Black people? And yet, this is a piece of representation I crave as a horror fan. And in the past, when we were made [into a] monster, it was a monster without empathy. For this monster, Tony Todd [who played the original Candyman] built a character that was a force, and had a charisma, and gave me a sense of power as opposed to a feeling of otherness."

DaCosta herself has said that this movie allows for the opportunity to not only cast Black leads, but it also centers the experience of Black people within the franchise's overall narrative and enables the filmmakers to tackle central elements of the Candyman myth and draw a line connecting it to American history in general.

"In the real world we create monsters of men all the time," DaCosta said earlier this year. "People are murdered, they become either saints or they're vilified." 

But before you can accidentally say this highly anticipated film's name five times in a row while staring into a mirror — and accidentally bring about a terrible fate — here's everything you need to know about Candyman... 

How to watch

Unlike many recent releases that have opted for dual theatrical and streaming windows due to the global pandemic, Candyman will only be receiving a theatrical one. This means fans eager to see this much-delayed release will have to go see it in person in a theater when it finally debuts on Friday, Aug. 27. 

Isn’t there another movie with the same name already?

There is — and this one seems to be a sequel. Or at least a reboot of the franchise. The first Candyman was an adaptation of a Clive Barker short story titled "The Forbidden." But while Barker's tale took place in Liverpool, director Bernard Rose (Paperhead), who wrote and directed the 1992 film, set it in Chicago in a public housing development called Cabrini-Green, known for its poor construction and high crime rate. (This allowed the movie to touch on themes of race and class and how they would intersect to affect this environment.)

And much like the story it’s based on, the film follows the tale of Helen Lyle (Swamp Thing’s Virginia Madsen), a graduate student who is working on a thesis about urban legends, which leads her to discover graffiti referencing a figure known as the "Candyman" (played by Night of the Living Dead’s Tony Todd). The titular horror is said to be summoned when someone says his name five times in a row while looking into a mirror, after which he kills said person using the hook he has instead of a right hand. 

Helen soon connects the legend of the Candyman to at least 25 murders that have taken place at Cabrini-Green. However, when she tries to summon the Candyman herself, she discovers that some urban legends are not to be messed with... 

What is this new movie about? 

Well, this one takes place a decade after the last of the poorly built Cabrini towers have been torn down to make way for a bunch of luxury high-rises and townhouses. The movie centers on visual artist Anthony McCoy (Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his gallery director girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (WandaVision's Teyonah Parris), who have just moved into a loft in the now-gentrified neighborhood. 

When Anthony learns of the legend of the Candyman, he can't help but start channeling him into his paintings in an attempt to kick his artist's block. However, his desire to remain relevant in the art world may have bigger repercussions than he'd anticipated as it seems to open up a whole can of worms, and he slowly begins to lose his grip on this world, and unleashes a fresh new wave of violence. 

But what is the connection between the two films? 

While Barker's short story might not feature any backstory for the titular character, Rose's movie gives him one — and it's pretty heartbreaking. You see, the original Candyman was a man by the name of Daniel Robitaille, the son of a slave who went on to grow up and become a talented artist who was often hired to paint portraits of wealthy white people. However, when he fell in love and got a daughter from one of these families pregnant, her father sent a mob after him, and they cut off his right hand and replaced it with a hook. They also slathered him in honeycomb from a local apiary, causing the bees to sting him to death.

However, Robitaille survived just long enough for his spirit to escape into a mirror, leading to his new existence. Meanwhile, his corpse is burned, with the ashes being scattered across the grounds that eventually go on to become the Cabrini-Green Housing Project, and later, the Cabrini-Green neighborhood. 

And not only is Robitaille a painter just like Anthony himself, but their connection might run a lot deeper than that. As it turns out, Anthony might be the baby from the first film, who'd been kidnapped by the Candyman 28 years ago. His mother, Anne-Marie McCoy (original actress Vanessa Estelle Williams, reprising her role), had been the one to first tell Helen of the myth, which prompted her whole exploration in the first place. 

Who else is in this film? 

The original Candyman actor himself, Tony Todd, will be playing a part in this film, though neither DaCosta nor Peele will reveal what. Also in the cast are Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead) as the older Cabrini-Green resident who tells Anthony about the Candyman legend, and Nathan Stewart-Jarett (Misfits), who is Brianna's brother Troy. 

Candyman will hit theaters on Aug. 27.