By MICHAEL GINGOLD
The highly anticipated reboot/sequel to the Clive Barker-based favorite is coming in June, and today the trailer has premiered. See it after the jump, along with words from its creators.
Opening June 12 from Universal, the new CANDYMAN was directed by Nia DaCosta from a script she wrote with producers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. Ian Cooper also produced, and the cast is headed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (US, AQUAMAN), Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo. The synopsis: “For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy [Abdul-Mateen] and his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright [Parris], move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials.
“With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini Green old-timer [Domingo] exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, 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 terrifyingly viral wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.”
The trailer gives a strong taste of the horrors that befall the characters—though it stops short of revealing who plays the titular villain, or whether original star Tony Todd makes an appearance. The Candyman voice we hear doesn’t sound quite like Todd’s, and the preview suggests this might be more of a ghost/possession scenario; protagonist Anthony is a painter just like Candyman was (according to the previous film’s mythology) before he was murdered over a century ago, so…who knows? We’ll find out in June.
In the meantime, at a press event yesterday, Peele praised the first CANDYMAN as one of the only films that “explored any aspect of the black experience in the horror genre in the ’90s, when I was growing up. So it was a real perfect example, an iconic example to me, of representation in the genre. And it inspired me. We have a reimagining of this story that we’re very excited about, and the director is a woman that we are extreme fans of at [his production company] Monkeypaw. When we met her, we just started geeking out about Bernard Rose, the director of CANDYMAN, Clive Barker, David Cronenberg; it became very quickly apparent that she was uniquely suited to direct this film. Then you add the fact that we’re huge fans of her film LITTLE WOODS, which came out last year.”
DaCosta was also on hand at the event, saying, “I’m such a huge fan of the original film, I’m a huge fan of horror, and I’m a huge fan of Jordan, going back to KEY & PEELE, which I keep quoting back to him. So this is a wonderful position I feel like I’m in.” The GET OUT/US director, she adds, “is so good at bringing social issues to the fore in genre, in horror. The original CANDYMAN does that really well, but what we were able to do, because 30 years have passed, because there’s been so much change in the neighborhood, particularly with gentrification, was really dig into the themes that were already there. In the original film, they’re already talking about the new buildings that are being built and the way the projects were built, and moving between mirrors in the apartments and how crime was able to happen because of how poorly those buildings were made vs. the high-rises being made for the middle class. So we talked a lot about all those things, and also just the fun of the original film. That was a huge part of what we wanted to bring back, because it’s great to talk about all those things, but it is a horror film, after all, and we also wanted to do what the original film did, which was be audacious, be fun, but also be meaningful.
“Gentrification,” she says, “is what helped us to reimagine the story, because Cabrini Green is gone, and the movie in the ’90s has a vision of Cabrini Green where it’s sort of on the way to being knocked down. There’s a lot of development in the area, but Cabrini itself has kind of been left untouched. So what we do in our film is talk about the ghosts that are left behind because of gentrification, in particular Cabrini Green, and that’s how we find our way into our reimagining of CANDYMAN.”
DaCosta is a longtime fan of the ’92 movie, though she can’t recall exactly when she first saw it. “The first thing I remember about CANDYMAN was being dared to say his name in the bathroom of my middle school, which was right next to the projects. I grew up around the projects; no matter where I moved, I was always across the street from the projects. And so the first thing I really remember is feeling like Candyman was absolutely real, and he was definitely in the projects, and could be anywhere, including my bathroom at middle school, because you just say his name and he appears. So that’s what I really wanted to bring back, the idea that he is omnipresent, and he can haunt a neighborhood. And also Tony Todd being that dude—that was huge for us to have the black antihero, villain, just a black person in general who at least made it to the end of the film, in horror. It was really, really important.”
DaCosta won’t spill as to whether Todd is involved in her CANDYMAN, though she does promise some pretty graphic mayhem at the phantom’s hands—or hook. “I really love gore [laughs], and that’s something Jordan and I talked a lot about. What’s fun about working with Jordan is that our horror aesthetics are different. Jordan’s really brilliant at, like, not showing everything, and my instincts are the exact opposite. There is a good amount of things you don’t want to see, but that I make you look at.” We’re all looking forward to seeing it, and will bring you more on CANDYMAN as its release draws closer.