THE URBAN LEGEND STATES THAT he can only be summoned by saying his name five times while looking into a mirror. After the fifth and final vocalisation, Candyman appears behind the foolish chanter, who’s then killed by a hook attached to the bloody stump of his right arm.
It’s not a real urban legend of course: Clive Barker created Candyman for his 1985 short story “The Forbidden”, and it was then brought to the screen in 1992’s Candyman. That starred Tony Todd as the title character, who haunts the residents of Chicago’s notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, shedding innocent blood for the purpose of perpetuating his gruesome legend. Nearly 30 years later, the once crime-infested area has become a model of gentrification, and the hook-handed killer has receded into the fog of myth. The world Candyman once terrorised no longer exists, so how does the supernatural killer regain his former bloody glory?
Central to figuring that out was Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer/director of Get Out and Us, who co-wrote the script and acts as a producer. But he wasn’t calling the shots on set; that fell to up-and-comer Nia DaCosta, who Peele chose to direct after being impressed by her feature debut, the acclaimed 2018 crime thriller Little Woods.
“I loved the first Candyman, which I think is a terrifying horror film,” DaCosta tells SFX. “My agent got me a meeting with Jordan, and we discovered that we had the same vision for how this film should be made. One of the things that we both love about the first film is that it’s one of the few horror films that attempted to represent the black experience, and we wanted to bring that to this film.
“Having Jordan supporting me, watching my back, made me feel very secure as a director,” she continues. “Jordan ran interference with the studio and dealt with the BS, which allowed me the freedom to make the film exactly the way that I wanted to.”
According to DaCosta, the new movie presents a changed legend for a changed world. “We’ve altered the rules, especially in terms of how Candyman is summoned,” she says. “If someone says Candyman’s name four times, even less, he will appear. We’ve created some interesting ways for how Candyman is called and how he appears.”
This revival does feature Todd, who previously reprised the role in 1995’s Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh and 1999’s Candyman: Day Of The Dead. But it looks like he may be passing on the Candyman mantle… Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Watchmen) plays Anthony McCoy, a character who appeared as a child in the 1992 original. Returning to his childhood home of Cabrini-Green, he ends up becoming immersed in the Candyman legend. “Anthony is an artist who had great early success within the Chicago art world but has since cooled off,” DaCosta explains. “While searching for artistic inspiration, he starts exploring the Candyman legend. He becomes haunted by visions of him, and unlocks a portal to Candyman, which he never should have opened.”
MAN IN THE MIRROR
WHEN TONY TODD recalls the making of Candyman, nearly 30 years ago, the first image that comes to mind is that of bees,
hundreds of them, swarming over his body and crawling into his mouth. “The bee wrangler on the first film, Norman Gary, told me not to worry because the stingers on the bees had been removed,” says Todd. “I wore a dental dam to prevent the bees from crawling down my throat. Despite all that, I was stung over 20 times. The bees broke through the dental dam, and I felt them in my mouth. On the good side, I received a payment for each bee sting that I sustained, and the bee sequences looked great in the film. Being stung that many times helped my performance because it allowed me to feel Candyman’s pain.”
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