The spirit of hook-handed serial killer Candyman is very much alive in this chilling new preview video. It's a teaser for the upcoming "spiritual sequel" to the 1992 horror classic, and plays out in the visually arresting form of shadow puppetry. There's no narration – just a slow-burning sense of terror and the eerie strains of Philip Glass' 'Helen's Theme' as various iterations of the Candyman legend play out in front of our eyes.
Candyman director Nia DaCosta explains that this is a pointed reflection of the current climate, playing into themes of oppression, exploitation and prejudice.
CANDYMAN, at the intersection of white violence and black pain, is about unwilling martyrs. The people they were, the symbols we turn them into, the monsters we are told they must have been. pic.twitter.com/MEwwr8umdI— Nia DaCosta (@NiaDaCosta) June 17, 2020
In the original 1992 movie, adapted by Bernard Rose from Clive Barker's short story 'The Forbidden', Candyman was established as a tragic figure: a black man and son of a slave, who fell in love with a white woman and was hideously killed. His hand was sawn off and replaced with a hook, before he was smeared with honey and left to die in an apiary. Throughout the decades, the spirit of Candyman (played with electrifying menace by Tony Todd) was said to manifest when people spoke his name five times into a mirror.
Cannily, the teaser for the new movie suggests that this is but one interpretation of his origin. Urban legends are, by their very nature, nebulous, and individual details can vary depending on who anecdotally relays the story. The imagery in the video may also suggest a generational connection between Candyman and the protagonist of the new movie, Anthony (played by Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Both men have artistic backgrounds: Candyman started as a painter before his appalling death, and Anthony is a modern artist whose understanding of the legend is filtered through his new installation project.
It seems that Anthony's creative pursuits bring down evil upon his head, not least because he's returned to the Cabrini Green area featured in the first movie. This was the site on which Candyman was said to have died back in the 19th century, one that eventually transformed into a crime-ridden housing Chicago project in the 20th century. It's strongly implied that Anthony is the baby whom Candyman attempted to sacrifice at the end of the Bernard Rose film, the baby who was ultimately saved by grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen).
Eventually, Helen became a variation on Candyman in her own right. There's a credited role for Helen in the sequel/remake, although, confusingly, not played by Madsen. Even more significantly, the film is written and produced by Jordan Peele, who has cornered the market in socially provocative, darkly funny and genuinely scary horror-satires with the likes of Get Out and Us. And Tony Todd is reprising his role as one of the greatest-ever big screen boogeymen.