Ever since Nia Da Costa’s new Candyman movie was described by co-writer and executive producer Jordan Peele as a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original, fans have been desperate to know exactly how the two films are linked.
Well, now that it’s finally out in cinemas, we can reveal that the new film is probably best described as somewhere between a sequel and a reboot: in some senses, it is a continuation of the story told in Bernard Rose’s film – with a couple of key characters even reappearing in the film – but in other ways, it is more of a reimagining, with the Candyman mythology updated for the modern era.
Throughout the film, there are several references to the original, in addition to explainers to get audiences who might not be familiar with the Cabrini-Green legend up to speed. The first of these comes in one of the film’s opening scenes, as Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) recounts the story to his sister Brianna (Teyonah Parris) and her boyfriend Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) – who have just moved into a new luxury flat on the site of the now-demolished Cabrini-Green high rises. As Troy tells the story of the first film – with perhaps a little dramatic license – it is rendered on the screen in the shape of beautiful shadow puppet animation, a device that will be used again when the original story is revisited later in the film.
Anyway, upon hearing the story, Anthony – a once-promising artist stuck in a creative rut – becomes obsessed with the legend and decides to make it the focus of his next art piece. This prompts him to research the original Cabrini-Green projects with much the same vigour as Helen Lyle did in the original, and in the course of doing so, he meets William (Colman Domingo) a long-time resident who fills him in on some more information.
William tells Anthony all about the backstory of the original Candyman, Daniel Robitaille, with the story again told through the use of puppets. As in the first film, Daniel is a former slave who was murdered, had his hand cut off, and was covered in honey so as to attract bees, all because he began a relationship with an aristocratic white woman – with a legend then arising that he continued to haunt the neighbourhood, appearing when his name is said five times in the mirror.
However, where this new film differs, is that this time Robitaille is not the only Candyman – instead, there is a whole array of wronged Black men who have also become known as the Candyman, many of whom appear throughout the course of the film. “Candyman isn’t a he,” William explains, “he’s the whole damn hive.” The way in which these new Candymen appear is also different – often being seen only in mirrors as opposed to actually appearing in the flesh.
During his discussion with Anthony, William also makes reference to Helen Lyle, whose investigations into Candyman in the first film led to huge media interest in the legend, telling him, “one white woman dies and the story lives forever.” Meanwhile, during his own research, Anthony also looks into the events of the 1992 film, as he aims to work out what happened to Lyle after she began her research project. This leads him to retrieve some of Helen’s audio files from her investigation – which means we briefly hear Virginia Maden’s voice in a number of clips.
But perhaps the biggest connection between the two films only becomes fully apparent towards the end (although fans will probably have worked it out based on the main character’s name). After discovering that he had been lied to about his birthplace, Anthony confronts his mother, and she reveals that he was the very same child that Helen Lyle had rescued from the Candyman in the first film – in essence making the whole film a rather more direct continuation of the original story. Vanessa E. Williams reprises her role as Anne-Marie McCoy for this scene meaning that she is one of two original cast members to appear on screen, the other being original Candyman Tony Todd.