Bernard Rose’s 1992 cult-classic Candyman has entered public discourse again after the recent success of the 2021 sequel directed by Nia DaCosta. The film revolves around an urban legend about the ghost of an artist whose bloody roots could be traced back to the horrors of slavery. The mythological figure of the Candyman is rediscovered by a student in Chicago whose research areas include urban folklore.
Rose wanted to make a sequel himself, but it never came to fruition. While commenting on the project, Rose said: “Quite radical. It was not directly following on from the story [of the first film] at all. But following on from the idea of the mythical ‘bogeyman’, and what its origins were. What it is about these sort of figures in history and in society that’s so universal and terrifying. You want to have this hurt, wounded, but terrifying brutal killer. And we’re still fascinated with this. Every show on Netflix is about a serial killer, right?”.
Adding, “I wanted to make something that basically would be about, as it were, the ghost of Jack the Ripper in modern London. The idea that he was this sort of mythical figure that kind of haunted…the East End. We’re talking about the London of the early ’90s [which] still had these really soot-stained, really derelict areas where prostitutes would hang out on the street corners. No different from the 1880s. It still had that almost kind of Hogarthian feel about it, that was kind of disturbing.”
DaCosta’s new Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, a visual artist in Chicago who decides to live in a gentrified Chicago neighbourhood with his girlfriend but ends up rediscovering the lost figure of Candyman. Before the 2021 film, there were two standalone sequels, but this is the one that continues the investigations of the 1992 sequel and acknowledges its enormous legacy in the world of horror.
The first connection between the original film and the 2021 sequel is the character of Anthony himself. In the 1992 version, he was kidnapped by Candyman, and the new film chronicles his life in the future, where we see him as an artist whose artistic career has come to a standstill. Although he never learnt of his past connection with Candyman as he was growing up, Candyman finds him all over again.
More importantly, DaCosta’s Candyman provides some vital information about the exact nature of the elusive figure of Candyman. He is not just one person – Daniel Robitaille but a recurring figure in the historical consciousness. Candyman is a self-propagating mythology that consumes anyone who comes into contact, incorporating them as subjects into the framework of Candyman’s legend. That’s exactly why Anthony finds himself falling into the realm of insanity, transformed into yet another Candyman.
“Huge fan of the original film, but what I wanted to keep was the romantic nature of Candyman,” DaCosta acknowledged. “I think there’s something really interesting about that, that they did the first film. I loved the way he was this darkly romantic, Gothic sort of antihero character. I wanted to keep those layers to him. But then also it was just important, again, to expand on who he was, what that meant.“
Adding, “I think Candyman is a monster, for sure. I think, in some ways, he can also be an antihero. I think he’s multifaceted. For me, he represents how we change people from people into idols, or martyrs, or icons, or representations of a thing, as opposed to living, breathing human beings. He’s a monster. It’s a horror movie. He’s a villain of a sort, but we want it to deconstruct who decided he was a monster, who gave him that name, and how did he get there in the first place.”