With her new Candyman, director Nia DaCosta both builds on and continues the legend first established in the original 1992 horror film starring Tony Todd as the titular vengeful spirit. Ahead of the new movie’s release, it was unclear how it might connect to the original and whether Todd himself might return given the actor’s previous refusal to be involved with previously proposed sequels like Candyman vs. Leprechaun. Now that the film is out in the world, the director has a few things to say about her reason for bringing the actor back.
The new Candyman puts a significant amount of effort into setting itself apart from Farewell to the Flesh and Day of the Dead, the two sequels that followed the first film and both failed to impress audiences.
DeCosta lays out a story about a fresh batch of characters who find themselves being terrorised in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighbourhood and as you settle in, it’s not immediately obvious how Todd’s Candyman — the ghost of a Black man named Daniel Robitaille who was murdered for having a relationship with a white woman — is meant to show up given how much of the new story is focused on Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
By the movie’s final moments, though, Anthony and the original Candyman’s connections solidify and you can see how the movie’s actually a story about how the Candyman is part of a larger, horrific cycle of violence that only begets more violence, and the story illustrates it by having Robitaille actually show up on-screen. Interesting as his appearance is, it happens in a sort of tricky way that doesn’t exactly answer some of the questions proposed during the film.
During a recent appearance on Empire’s Spoiler Special Podcast, however, DaCosta opened up a bit about some of the thinking that went into Todd’s cameo, and explained why she didn’t just lead with him and Virginia Madsen’s character from the ‘90s movie, being a major part of the story. “What’s so interesting is everyone’s like, ‘You have to bring him back, and bring Helen back,’” DaCosta said. “And it’s like, well, they both aren’t allowed to age, because they’re both ghosts. So that’s immediately the trickiest thing about it.”
In the new movie, Anthony’s obsession with the Candyman myths put him on a mental downward spiral that’s only exacerbated when people around him start turning up dead, seemingly after attempting to summon the ghost by speaking his name five times into mirrors. By the film’s end, you learn that Robitaille is but one of many Candymen who met violent, racist ends, only to return as malevolent spirits hungry for retribution.
The film closes with Anthony, having become the newest Candyman, appearing to slaughter a group of white police officers who attempted to coerce his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) into agreeing that Anthony provoked them to shoot him to death. For a brief moment, the spectral Anthony transforms into Robitaille, and DaCosta explained that her goal was to establish the brutal, cyclical violence underpinning their connection.
“At least for me, it was about making sure we talked about the fact that this was cyclical and that history repeats itself, and this isn’t just an incident that happened to one guy named Daniel Robitaille,” DaCosta said. “It’s actually an environment in which we live that allows for these things to happen over and over again.”
Candyman is now in theatres.