GUESS WHO'S BACK
Total Film|August 2021
PRODUCER JORDAN PEELE AND DIRECTOR NIA DACOSTA HAVE ETCHED A NEW CHAPTER IN THE TERRIFYING LEGEND OF CANDYMAN. TOTAL FILM FINDS OUT HOW THE FILM USES BLOOD AND BRAINS TO EXPLORE THE BLACK EXPERIENCE…
JAMIE GRAHAM

Repeat this name to yourself: Nia DaCosta. It’s one you’ll come to know, and not only because, in August 2020, she signed up to direct Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels. No, it’s the reason she landed that blockbuster gig in the first place that will cause her name to be repeated again and again over the next few months.

That reason is Candyman, DaCosta’s striking new take on Bernard Rose’s iconic 1992 horror movie, which is in turn based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden in his landmark Books Of Blood collection. For DaCosta, whose only previous feature credit is Crossing The Line (aka Little Woods), a moody crime drama starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, landing the Candyman gig is a dream (nightmare?) come true.

“I was always into horror films,” she tells Total Film with a shiver of delight. “Even when I was a kid. Freddy Krueger movies, Jason movies. I used to watch Tales Of The Crypt in the dark by myself. I think they’re a cool way to look at who we are. And it’s fun being scared.”

As for Candyman starring Tony Todd as the hook-handed, gravel-voiced killer who crosses from myth into Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project to slay and slay again, DaCosta first knew of him, fittingly enough, through whispers rather than the film itself. “I was in Harlem, in the fifth or sixth grade,” she recalls. “I just remember Candyman being a part of life. Like legend, lore. We didn’t dare say his name in the mirror [Todd’s bogeyman is summoned by repeating “Candyman” five times into a looking glass]. For me, Candyman felt so real. It felt like he could totally exist in the projects by my house.”

SUMMONING CANDYMAN

A fourth Candyman film (let’s not pause to ponder 1995’s Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh or 1999’s Candyman: Day Of The Dead – DaCosta’s movie wisely doesn’t) has been whispered of since Freddy Vs. Jason scared up decent box-office takings in 2003. In 2004, for a terrifying moment, it seemed that Candyman Vs. Leprechaun was on the cards, though Todd thankfully refused to have his legendary killer join hands (or rather, hook and talons) with such a risible franchise. Then there was talk of a $25m budget for a new Candyman boasting Barker’s involvement, only for the buzz to die away.

In September 2018, the possibility of Candyman materialising once more suddenly became very real, with the announcement that Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions had secured the rights. The director of Get Out and Us released a statement: “The original was a landmark film for Black representation in the horror genre. Alongside Night Of The Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as filmmaker. We are honoured to bring the next chapter in the Candyman canon to life.” And Todd himself said, “I’d rather have him do it, someone with intelligence who’s going to be thoughtful and dig into the whole racial makeup of who Candyman is and why he existed in the first place.”

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