|Directed by||Nia DaCosta|
|Edited by||Catrin Hedström|
|Music by||Robert A. A. Lowe|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$52.9 million|
Candyman is a 2021 supernatural slasher film directed by Nia DaCosta and written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and DaCosta. The film is a direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name and the fourth film in the Candyman film series, based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker. The film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo along with Vanessa Williams, Tony Todd, and Virginia Madsen who reprise their roles from the original film.
Plans for another Candyman film began in the early 2000s, with original director Bernard Rose wanting to make a prequel film about Candyman and Helen's love. However, the studio turned it down and the project entered development hell. By 2018, Peele signed on as producer for a new film using his company, Monkeypaw Productions and later, in November that same year, it was confirmed that Peele would produce the film with Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and partnered with Rosenfeld to co-produce the film while DaCosta signed on as director. Principal photography for the film began in August 2019 and wrapped in September 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Candyman was theatrically released in the United States on August 27, 2021, by Universal Pictures. Its release date was delayed three times from an original June 2020 date due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised DaCosta's direction and the blend of social commentary with horror, and has grossed over $50 million worldwide against a $25 million budget.
Twenty-seven years after the events of the first film, visual artist Anthony McCoy lives in Chicago with his girlfriend, art gallery director Brianna Cartwright. Brianna's brother Troy shares the urban legend of Helen Lyle, a graduate student who went on a killing spree in the early 1990s. Her rampage culminated in a bonfire outside the Cabrini-Green housing project when she attempted to sacrifice a baby. The residents were able to rescue the child before Helen perished in the fire in an apparent act of self-immolation.
Desperate for a creative spark to turn his career around, Anthony roams around Cabrini-Green for inspiration. He eventually meets William Burke, a laundromat owner who introduces him to the story of the Candyman. When Burke was a child, he had a frightening encounter with Sherman Fields, a hook-handed man whom the police believed was responsible for putting a razor blade in a piece of candy that ended up in the hands of a white girl. Burke inadvertently alerted the police to Sherman's presence inside the walls of one of the tower blocks, leading them to beat Sherman to death. When children continued to receive candy with razor blades inside, Sherman was exonerated, and the legend implies that if somebody says "Candyman" five times to a mirror, Sherman's spirit will appear and kill the summoner.
Inspired, Anthony develops an art exhibit based on Candyman's legend and showcases it at Brianna's art gallery. However, he is dismayed when it does not get a positive reaction. That night, one of Brianna's co-workers and his girlfriend are slaughtered by the Candyman after saying his name five times in front of a piece of Anthony's exhibit consisting of a mirror. Brianna discovers their bodies the next morning. The legend spreads, and more people are killed after repeating the Candyman's name, including an art critic and a group of teenage girls.
Anthony begins to undergo a physical transformation, stemming from a bee sting he received on his hand in Cabrini-Green which develops into a huge scab that starts spreading across his entire body. Anthony goes to a hospital, where he learns that his mother Anne-Marie lied about where he was born, and when he confronts her, she reluctantly reveals that he was the baby Helen rescued from the fire the night she died. Though Helen saved him from the first Candyman, Daniel Robitaille, who abducted him and planned to sacrifice him in the fire, Anne-Marie never told him about it because she wanted Anthony to have a normal life. The community had vowed never to repeat the Candyman's legend after that night, and she fears what will happen now that someone has broken the pact. Anthony leaves, resigned to his fate and wanders through the Cabrini-Green row houses.
Worried about Anthony, Brianna realizes that Burke first told him about the Candyman and goes to Cabrini-Green to find them. At the laundromat, she is attacked by Burke, who takes her to an abandoned church where Anthony, his body continuing to deteriorate, is waiting. Anthony enters into a fugue state and tries to save her as Burke reveals that he not only witnessed Sherman's death, he also saw Sherman's spirit returning as the Candyman and witnessed him kill his older sister and a friend who summoned him. Burke plans to have the police gun Anthony down to create a new legend with the Candyman as an instrument of vengeance rather than a symbol of Black pain and suffering. To complete Anthony's transformation into the Candyman, Burke saws off his right hand and replaces it with a hook.
Brianna manages to escape the church and is chased through Cabrini-Green by Burke, whom she viciously stabs to death. Anthony appears and collapses into her arms as the police, lured to the scene by Burke, show up and shoot Anthony dead. Brianna is arrested and handcuffed, and as an officer attempts to intimidate her into agreeing that Anthony provoked the police into shooting him, Brianna uses the police car's rear-view mirror to summon the Candyman. He appears, now in Anthony's guise, and massacres the police. As more police arrive at the scene, Anthony takes on the appearance of Robitaille and instructs Brianna to "tell everyone".
In response to the success of Freddy vs. Jason, a crossover film with Leprechaun, titled Candyman vs. Leprechaun, entered development. Tony Todd rejected the idea after being presented the script, saying "I will never be involved in something like that." In 2004, Todd confirmed to Fangoria that a fourth film was moving forward with Clive Barker's involvement and a $25 million budget. By 2009, Deon Taylor was attached to direct the film, which would have been set in New England during the winter at an all-women's college, and would ignore the events of Candyman: Day of the Dead. The film eventually fell apart due to disputes amongst the rights owners.
In September 2018, it was announced that Jordan Peele was in talks to produce a sequel of the 1992 film through his Monkeypaw Productions. In a 2018 interview with Nightmare on Film Street, Todd stated, "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 the Candyman is and why he existed in the first place." In November 2018, it was confirmed that Peele and Win Rosenfeld would produce the film with Universal and MGM, while Nia DaCosta signed on as director. The film would be a sequel to the original, taking place back in the new gentrified Cabrini Green where the old housing projects development once stood in Chicago. MGM's Jonathan Glickman stated that "the story will not only pay reverence to Clive Barker's haunting and brilliant source material" but "will bring in a new generation of fans." The filming was due to commence in early 2019.
In January 2019, it was reported that Lakeith Stanfield was being eyed to star in the film as Anthony McCoy, a character who was protrayed as a baby in the original film by Lanesha Martin. At the time, there was no word as to whether Todd or any of past cast would reprise their roles. However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Todd spoke about Peele, stating: "I know that he's a fan. I'm hoping that I will appear in the film in some form of fashion. Wouldn't that make sense? But, it's Hollywood so I won't take it personally if it doesn't work out." He added, "If this new one is successful, it will shed light back on the original. I think that the subject matter is more important than any individuals and I mean that." In February 2019, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was in talks to play McCoy, misreported as being in talks to portray the titular character. In response to the news, Todd offered his blessings over Twitter, stating: "Cheers to the Candyman, a wonderful character that I lived with for 25 years. He's brought grace and glory and a beautiful boatload of friends & family. I'm honored that the spirit of Daniel Robitaille & Cabrini Green rises again. Truth to power! Blessings to the cast & crew". However, it was ultimately announced that Todd would reprise his role and that Abdul-Mateen II would instead be portraying Anthony McCoy. In March, Teyonah Parris was cast as Brianna Cartwright.
Principal photography for Candyman took place between August and September 2019 in the Chicago area under the working title Say My Name. Some filming took place in the North Park neighborhood during the month of September. Director DaCosta said the Near North Side's Marina City apartment buildings/condos were her favorite filming location in the city. Several scenes were filmed in the last standing remains of Cabrini–Green Homes' fenced-off row houses from 1942. Candyman is the first feature film to shoot on location inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Like the originally-planned 2004 film, the project had a $25 million production budget.
The film features puppetry animation sequences which were created by Chicago-based puppet theater company Manual Cinema. DaCosta said she and Jordan Peele chose shadow puppets after speaking "early on about how much we would hate to do a traditional flashback scene (laughs) or to use footage from the original film, 'cause we wanted this to stand on its own. He mentioned shadow puppetry, and then in Chicago we developed [something] with this amazing theatre production company and from there it became less about flashbacks and more about how we depict these stories, these legends."
Candyman was originally scheduled to be released on June 12, 2020, by Universal Pictures, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed to September 25, 2020, and then again to October 16, 2020, taking the previous release date of Halloween Kills. The film was then delayed to August 27, 2021.
Summarizing the film's marketing results, RelishMix wrote that viewers were debating whether it was a remake or a sequel and that "with Jordan Peele on board, fan expectations run high in anticipation of the return of this classic horror villain, who's described as a 'Black Freddy or Black Jason', as the film explores racial issues. Plus, fans are looking at the journey into the fine art world, woven into artists' creations, as they are influenced by demons and ghosts." By August 2021, the film's promotional content was viewed 144.1 million times, 40 percent higher than the average horror film; the first and second trailers accumulated 75 and 60 million views, respectively. Additional marketing tactics about the film's premise included a Snapchat filter, a stunt activation in Chicago, and Peele daring viewers to tweet #Candyman five times, resulting in the film trending online.
In the United States and Canada, Candyman was projected to gross around $15 million from 3,569 theaters in its opening weekend. The film took in $9.1 million on its first day, including $1.9 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $22 million, topping the box office; the audience was made up of 53% male, with African Americans (37%) and Caucasians (30%) making up a majority. The top markets in the U.S. were Los Angeles ($1.3 million) and New York ($1.1 million). DaCosta also became the first black female director to have a film finish number one at the box office.
Worldwide, Candyman was released in 51 markets and made $5.23 million; the top countries were the United Kingdom ($1.48 million), Spain ($356,000), Mexico, Russia, and Germany.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of 284 critics have given the film a positive review with an average rating of 7.3/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Candyman takes an incisive, visually thrilling approach to deepening the franchise's mythology—and terrifying audiences along the way." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100 based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 72% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 56% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Reviewing the film for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote that "DaCosta plays with perspective, shifting between Anthony's and the intersecting, sometimes colliding worlds of more-successful artists, urban-legend propagators and, touchingly, profoundly scarred children." She points to the interspersed bits of shadow puppetry as a reflexive writing device that emphasizes Candyman is fundamentally about storytelling, writing: "We tell some fictions to understand ourselves, to exist; others we tell to turn other human beings into monsters, to destroy." Odie Henderson, reviewing the film for RogerEbert.com, praised DaCosta's visual style, writing that she "stages the kill scenes with a mix of pitch-black humor, misdirection, and clever framing, fully acknowledging that what you don't see—or think you saw—can be a lot worse than what you did see." In her review of Candyman for The A.V. Club, Anya Stanley wrote that the film's various interests are "more than a 91-minute movie can adequately explore," but conceded "there are worse crimes for a movie to commit than having too many ideas." She explained: "Where Bernard Rose spoke on white anxieties and the image of the scary Black man in 1992, DaCosta expands the conversation, relocating the horror from one man to the many structures that foment brutality upon the Black populace."
In her review for Vulture, Angelica Jade Bastién called Candyman "the most disappointing film of the year so far," writing that it limns "not only the artistic failures of the individuals who ushered it to life, but the artistic failures of an entire industry that seeks to commodify Blackness to embolden its bottom line." Robert Daniels expressed similar disappointment with the film in his review for Polygon, describing it as "cluttered, preachy, and not nearly scary enough." He took particular issue with the way the film fails to convey the geographical importance of Cabrini-Green, writing that the "lack of a visual metaphor makes the film's exploration of gentrification more of an assemblage of nonspecific dialogue. It talks about what gentrification is, and not what it looks like."
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Director Nia DaCosta, working from a script she wrote with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, uses Bernard Rose's 1992 film as a jumping-off point for bone-chilling horror that expands provocatively on the urban legend of the first film within the context of Black folklore and history, as well as the distorting white narrative that turns Black victims into monsters." Reviewing the film for TheWrap, Elizabeth Weitzman said: "DaCosta, Peele, and Rosenfeld are playing with us—the victim is rendered less sympathetically than Candyman—as much as they are with notions of history, culture, art and appropriation. They bring in actors from the first film (including Tony Todd and Vanessa Estelle Williams) but not always in ways we expect. They build on canon while simultaneously dismantling it."
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