Candyman Explained: What to Know About the Original Before the Remake - VRGyani News and Media


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Candyman Explained: What to Know About the Original Before the Remake

There has been much anticipation and speculation surrounding the upcoming Candyman (2021) and its relation to the rest of the franchise. Nearly three decades after Bernard Rose’s original Candyman (1992), Nia DaCosta’s “spiritual sequel” stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II — of Aquaman and HBO’s Watchmen fame — alongside Teyonah Parris (Wandavision) and veteran actor Colman Domingo (Euphoria). Surprisingly, some actors and their characters are making a return to the horror franchise as well, such as Vanessa E. Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy and Tony Todd as the titular Candyman. With further reports of Cassie Kramer taking over Virginia Madsen’s Helen Lyle, the protagonist of the first film, the 2021 film is shaping up to be more than just a sequel in spirit.

DaCosta and writer-producer Jordan Peele may be taking a page from Halloween (2018), as writer-director David Gordon Green sought out to make a direct sequel to Halloween (1978) while ignoring the subsequent sequels in between. While the original Candyman has had two other sequels — Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999) — DaCosta’s film seems to be a direct continuation from the first rather than building on the other films of the franchise. So, with the new Candyman coming out later this month, there’s no better time than now to go back to the original 1992 film, especially since Abdul-Mateen II’s role as 2021’s protagonist has a significant and direct connection to the first.

RELATED: New 'Candyman' Trailer and Poster Show the Return of a BoogeymanThe original Candyman follows Helen Lyle (Madsen), a graduate student who is working on her thesis and is researching the urban legend of the Candyman and his relation to the community of Cabrini-Green, a neighborhood housing project in urban Chicago. According to the urban legend, the Candyman was the son of a former slave. Because of his talent as an artist, Candyman was able to live a life of status rather than servitude, though still in service of affluent whites. He was often invited to paint his white employers, one of whom eventually fell in love with him and together they conceived a child. When the woman’s father found out, he arranged a mob to lead Candyman to the now-Cabrini-Green, where they cut off his hand and bathed his naked body in honey as hives of bees stung him to death. Now the Candyman returns with a hook for a hand. In order to summon him, one says his name five times in front of a mirror.

For Helen, the Candyman is merely a symbol of the difficulties faced by Cabrini-Green’s residents. So, just to humor herself, she says the Candyman’s name five times in a mirror, unknowingly inviting him and his sadistic antics into her life.

Because Helen has discredited the Candyman, he seeks to kill innocent lives and the lives closest to her. In her hallucinations and blackouts, Helen is possessed by the Candyman who uses her as a vessel for his killings. First, Helen goes to one of Cabrini-Green’s residents, Anne-Marie (Williams), and slaughters her dog then kidnaps her son Anthony. While Anthony remains missing until the end of the film, Helen suffers the consequences of the Candyman’s killing spree. After an arrest and being bailed out by her husband Trevor (Xander Berkeley), Helen then appears to kill her fellow graduate student Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) during a visit to her apartment. Helen is taken to a psychiatric hospital, where the Candyman also appears, kills one of the doctors, and helps Helen escape.

The Candyman makes a bargain with her. If she submits herself to him — joining him in his immortal, supernatural status — then he’ll show her where baby Anthony is and free him. She finds Anthony in the middle of a bonfire set up at the center of Cabrini-Green. She goes inside, but the Candyman refuses to let her and the baby go. Meanwhile, the crowd outside lights the bonfire. As the flames begin to rise around Helen, she manages to free herself from the Candyman and drag Anthony outside of the bonfire. As the Candyman burns inside, Helen dies from her burns, but baby Anthony is safely rescued.

At Helen’s funeral, the residents of Cabrini-Green arrive to pay their respects as she seemingly defeated the Candyman. Anne-Marie is there too, holding Anthony in her arms. After the funeral, Helen’s husband Trevor goes home with his new, younger girlfriend. In his grief, Trevor recites Helen’s name five times, conjuring her spirit as a new boogeyman. Helen gets her revenge, killing him.

While Candyman (1992) seemingly ends with the original Candyman usurped by Helen’s new legendary spirit — her image now graffitied onto a wall in Cabrini-Green — the trailers for the upcoming sequel indicate that the Candyman still reigns over the Chicago neighborhood. And while baby Anthony was merely a MacGuffin of sorts in the first film, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II takes up the role of Anthony McCoy, now grown up decades after. This also explains the return of Vanessa E. Williams’ Anne-Marie and the possible return of Helen Lyle.

The plot of DaCosta’s film indicates that the Cabrini housing projects have been demolished and replaced by luxury condominiums. Up-and-coming millennials have become the new residents, one of whom is Anthony — though he may have been part of the low-income neighborhood decades ago, he returns to Cabrini as a young artist with an ambition for status. Finding the graffiti art along the old neighborhood of Cabrini-Green, Anthony finds an opportunity to capitalize on the past for his own success. Of course, this can only mean bad news for Anthony as he opens up an opportunity for the Candyman to reemerge.

Choosing Anthony as the main protagonist of the sequel might be a clear, obvious direction to take after the events of the first film. After all, he was the only one to come into direct contact with the Candyman himself and survive. In that case, there is some unfinished business between Candyman and Anthony. The agreement was that he would let Anthony free if Helen submitted herself to him; however, because Helen ultimately rejected him, Anthony is a loose end of the Candyman’s original promise. This may be one reason why the Candyman comes back to terrorize Cabrini-Green.

However, there is another important detail that links Anthony McCoy back to the original Candyman. Recall that the Candyman was a successful, talented artist whose work allowed him to overcome his slave status and to intermingle with white elites. It is only when he commits — back then — the taboo of being with a white woman and having a child with her that his success is jeopardized. As the plot synopsis for the new film suggests, Anthony is also an ambitious artist with his own goals in mind. Anthony’s desire for success runs parallel to Cabrini-Green’s development into a gentrified neighborhood, a far-removed setting from 1992’s dreary, trash-filled setting. In an interview with Empire, part of the new film’s story revolves around Anthony’s relationship to Cabrini-Green’s past and its present, “him figuring out his place there as a Black gentrifier.” Anthony McCoy’s story having echoes of the Candyman’s origins is an interesting take on history repeating itself, but it is even more relevant in today’s context.

While the original film hinted at these issues of race, systemic segregation, and gentrification, those themes are left in the subtext. Instead, Bernard Rose chose to focus on Helen, a white woman, as the protagonist and narrative focus of the 1992 film. Of course, the original film can be read along feminist lines with tangential discussions of race and social class. However, DaCosta’s approach to Candyman puts these racial and social issues back at the forefront.

The expectations are high for Candyman (2021), especially after revisiting the first film — a horror classic with serious, critical weight. With Nia DaCosta at the helm, whose debut feature film Little Woods received critical success and who has already landed the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels for 2022, the new film holds promise. And Peele’s track record for producing unique horror movies with a socio-critical eye only further assures us that this modern take on Candyman is something worth waiting for. Though the pandemic has led to the film’s yearlong delay, we can finally witness the Candyman’s return to cinemas on August 27.

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