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We are so on board for Jordan Peele’s clever reinvention of Candyman

Don’t say his name — “The writing on the wall. The sweet smell of blood. Be my victim.” Jennifer Ouellette – Feb 27, 2020 10:15 pm UTC Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Us, Watchmen) stars as visual artist Anthony McCoy in Candyman, Jordan Peele’s re-imagining of the 1990s horror franchise.A visual artist inadvertently reawakens a monster from…

Don’t say his name —

“The writing on the wall. The sweet smell of blood. Be my victim.”


Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Us, Watchmen) stars as visual artist Anthony McCoy in Candyman, Jordan Peele’s re-imagining of the 1990s horror franchise.

A visual artist inadvertently reawakens a monster from a Chicago urban legend in the first trailer for Candyman. Co-written by Jordan Peele and director Nia DaCosta (best known for her 2019 film Little Woods), it’s technically another sequel to the 1992 film that inspired it rather than a straight-up remake. In fact, it looks to be following the trend of such recent projects as Watchmen and Cobra Kai: honoring the prior storyline(s) while bringing them firmly into the present day.

(Spoilers for original film below.)

Based on the Clive Barker short story “The Forbidden,” the original 1992 Candyman starred Virginia Madsen as a Chicago graduate student in sociology whose thesis deals with urban legends. She hears about a series of murders in the Cabrini-Green public housing project. The killer is rumored to be the ghost of a late 19th-century artist named Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd) who was lynched because he fathered an illegitimate child with a white woman. The mob cut off his right hand and smeared him with honey to attract bees to sting him before scattering his ashes over what is now the project’s grounds.

The legend holds that anyone can summon Candyman by repeating his name five times while looking in a mirror. Candyman will then appear to kill the summoner with a hook in place of his mangled stump. Helen’s disbelief in the legend reawakens Candyman, who embarks on a new series of murders while framing Helen as the perpetrator. (There are hints that Helen is the reincarnation of the woman Daniel once loved.)

It’s easy to see why Peele would be drawn to the story, given the original’s themes of race and social class in Chicago’s public housing projects. The original Candyman himself, Tony Todd, is on record saying, “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.” Peele is also fascinated by doppelgängers and mirror imagery, and Candyman offers both in abundance.

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as Anthony McCoy, a visual artist who moves into the gentrified Cabrini-Green neighborhood in Chicago.

  • Anthony’s live-in girlfriend Brianna is a gallery owner who questions why he’s so fascinated by an urban legend.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • “Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman.”


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Traumatized for life.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Anthony explores the old neighborhood.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • An old photo of a church.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • The church today.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • A mural depicting the legend of Candyman.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Candyman inspires Anthony’s new exhibit.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Patrons are challenged to gaze into the mirror and dare to summon the monster.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Candyman leaves a trail of blood and bodies.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Mama knows best: don’t say his name.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Anthony sees Candyman in his own reflection.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • A hook emerges to meet his outstretched hand.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Brianna worries about the changes in Anthony.


    YouTube/Universal Pictures

  • Anthony has a date with destiny.

The film takes place a decade after the Cabrini towers have been torn down, as visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Us, Watchmen) and his gallery-owner girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris, If Beale Street Could Talk) move into a luxury loft in the now-gentrified neighborhood. With his career flagging, Anthony decides to create an art exhibit around the urban legend.

Per the official synopsis:

Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying viral wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

The trailer opens with a recap of the legend. We see a group of teenage girls in a school bathroom all saying the name five times. It doesn’t end well for the girls, and the event traumatizes another youngster who happens to enter a stall right after the ritual but before the killings. We catch a glimpse of bees and a hook in a compact mirror’s reflection.

Cut to Anthony and Brianna cuddling in their new loft as Anthony’s voiceover declares, “I feel really connected to this neighborhood.” He should: his mother, Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams, reprising her 1992 role) was one of the original residents of Cabrini-Green. In the original film, Candyman kidnapped baby Anthony, and Madsen’s Helen sacrificed herself to save him.

“Shh. Don’t. Don’t say that.”

Then Anthony meets an old timer from the neighborhood (Colman Domingo, Euphoria), who tells him about the urban legend, and we next see various gallery patrons viewing Anthony’s new Candyman-centric exhibit. “I’m hoping to spread the story all about Candyman,” we hear Anthony say. “The mirror invites you to summon him.” Of course, any patrons who take the dare to say the name five times die violently. Certainly Anne-Marie knows better, clapping back when her grown son starts to say the name: “Shh. Don’t. Don’t say that.” (I smell viral meme potential.)

Anthony appears to be connected to Candyman thanks to the events of that first film. We see him gazing at his reflection, only to see Candyman gazing back at him. (Todd is also back as Daniel/Candyman.) The hook comes out of the mirror, moving toward Anthony’s own outstretched hand. “He had a purpose for you, to be another one of his terrible stories,” Anne-Marie tells him, to which Anthony responds, “I guess he found me.”

Candyman hits theaters on June 12, 2020.

Listing image by YouTube/Universal Pictures

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