CS Soapbox: Reimagining Candyman as a possession story is a good idea
The time has finally arrived for the debut of the trailer for the highly-anticipated reboot of the iconic horror franchise Candyman, with Jordan Peele (Us) co-writing and producing. While fan theories have percolated for months on how it will pick up the story from the 1992 original, it now appears that it will be a story of the killer’s spirit seeking to possess a new vessel to spread his terror. This is not only a unique route to take the series, but also a creatively stellar way to forge a new path.
*Warning: Spoilers Lie Ahead for 28-Year-Old Candyman*
First, let’s start with the trailer and what it revealed about the film, as well as who it revealed will return. We’ve been led to believe in the preceding months that Tony Todd would be reprising his iconic role and that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman) would be portraying a character named Anthony McCoy, an artist obsessed with the legend in the same vein as Virginia Madsen’s Helen Lyle in the 1992 original. Many fans and readers simply saw it as a gender-flipped story that would touch on many of the elements of the original, however some dug a little deeper and realized why they recognized that name: we’ve seen this character before.
The original film was set in the Chicago public housing project Cabrini-Green and the new film continues the story in the same neighborhood, now experiencing gentrification, and follows Anthony as he uses his art to explore his obsession with the local urban legend. He even puts on a gallery show in which patrons can say Candyman in front of a mirror five times to see if the killer will appear. The setting of the film is no happy accident, as it is not only the home to the slasher, but also the childhood home of Anthony, who audiences first met as an infant in the original film.
Candyman, born as Daniel Robitaille, was the son of a freed slave who became wealthy after developing a system for mass-producing shoes during the civil war. He was raised in upper society and grew up to become an artist, frequently sought after due to his talent. However, after falling in love with and fathering a child with the white daughter of a high class businessman, he was attacked by a lynch mob who sawed off his right hand and smeared him in honey, attracting bees from a local apiary that stung him to death. He was then burned on a pyre and had his ashes spread across the area that would become Cabrini-Green.
While exploring the legend of Candyman in the project, Helen met resident Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa A. Williams) and found herself intertwined in a dangerous manner after Candyman seemingly influences Helen to kill Anne-Marie’s dog and kidnap her baby Anthony. Helen would later find and save Anthony’s life by sacrificing herself to Candyman’s will, with Anne-Marie and a young boy from the project paying respects at her funeral and the latter throwing in his hook into her grave. She would later come back after being summoned by her ex-husband and kills him, becoming a vengeful spirit and replacing Candyman in the mural in his former lair hidden within Cabrini-Green.
While the new trailer didn’t outright reveal the last name of Anthony or his connection to the original, it heavily implies this tie as he not only says he feels connected to the neighborhood of Cabrini-Green, but we also see Williams herself fearfully saying Candyman always had some purpose for Anthony, being the ultimate clue that she’s reprising her role of Anne-Marie.
The Path Forward and Why It’s a Good Thing
Having survived the clutches of Candyman (and probably being reminded by his mother and neighbors over the years of the trauma he faced) would lead him on a path to be obsessed with the folk legend and want to explore it, possibly even attempt to bring him back, even if it means sacrificing others or his own life. Additionally, given Daniel Robitaille, aka Candyman’s, former life as an artist during the late 1800s and how it went wrong for him, it would make sense that he would seek out another artist to keep his legend alive and continue his killings.
Not to mention, much of Candyman’s actions throughout the franchise, namely the first film, see him seeking to keep his legend and message alive in order to keep himself alive and get revenge for his brutal murder. This would tie in well with the potential story of his spirit seeking to possess a new vessel to continue killing in his name, with the original even seeing a gang member killing people in the area with a hook in Candyman’s name. When Helen got the man arrested, Candyman sought to use her as a means of killing more victims and to spread the fear of his existence through the neighborhood.
This theme of possession to carry on killings has been explored in other horror franchises in the past, but typically in weaker or less captivating manners than possible. One such example was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, with the knife-gloved killer possessing a young boy who moves into the home formerly occupied by Nancy Thompson. It could’ve been an interesting way to keep the story moving in a different direction from its predecessor, but its confused tone and lack of scares made it a lackluster effort. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday also saw an attempt to transform the series as the titular hockey mask-wearing killer’s spirit jumped bodies numerous times throughout, which was widely criticized by critics and fans alike.
It’s hard getting a possession story done right, especially with an established franchise killer portrayed by an actor of Tony Todd’s renown multiple times, but given Peele’s acclaimed credits in the sci-fi and horror genres thus far and co-writer/director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods)’s acclaimed past as well, chances are if they’ve gone this route they’ve done so with precision and care for both newcomers and longtime fans alike.
Plus, as disregarded as the sequels I just referenced were, Nightmare did have one thing going for it that we Candyman fans are definitely keeping our fingers thoroughly crossed for: the return of Tony Todd to his most iconic role. Be it actually physically appearing to the various characters, only in spiritual form in mirrors or flashes or just vocal work, setting up a possession of another character would require the return of Todd for the titular role in some capacity and would be a perfect way to give his performance a proper sendoff before passing it on to a new generation.
While debuting the trailer at a press event recently, DaCosta was asked outright if Todd would be returning for the reboot, leading off her answer with a sarcastic “Well, well, well” before going on to praise the star as “iconic” and describe the work her, Peel and co-writer Win Rosenfeld did with the story as “great.”
“Tony is great, Jordan is great and I don’t want to give anything away,” she said. “Two things is that the one most important thing is the excitement about the new things that are here, about what’s to come. The second thing is there’s so many black people in this trailer and in this movie and all of our leads are black and that was really exciting to me.”
There’s still almost three months left until the Peele co-written and produced reboot hits theaters to see if these come to fruition, but for now our excitement is at an all-time high for the project.
Are you excited for the next chapter in the Candyman series? Where do you think the franchise could go next? Let us know below!