Someone must have said his name five times: “Candyman” appeared at the American Black Film Festival, and the hook-wielding horror was on full display.
Festival attendees got a first look Tuesday at three scenes from the Nia DaCosta-directed, Jordan Peele-produced movie (out Oct. 16), which arrives nearly three decades after the original horror movie of the same name.
In the first clip, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Brianna’s (Teyonah Parris) friend Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) recounts the urban legend that’s the plot of the 1992 version. In that movie co-written and directed by Bernard Rose, which featured African-American lead Tony Todd as the titular anti-hero, Candyman viciously haunted the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago.
Set against the backdrop of shadow puppetry, Troy eerily retells the story of Helen Lyle (played by Virginia Madsen in the original film): “One day she just snapped. She beheaded a rottweiler. By the time the police showed up, she’s in one of the apartments doing snow angels in a pool of blood.”
Troy explains how Helen “goes on a rampage, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake,” before “the baby of one of the residents is abducted” and Helen tries to sacrifice the infant in a bonfire.
“It was really important for us to not do the horror movie trope of like flashing back to scenes from the last film,” DaCosta told Jacqueline Coley, editor at Rotten Tomatoes, after screening the scene. “We also wanted to really dig into what was so important to us about the original film. It’s about urban legends, it’s about stories.”
A second clip shows Abdul-Mateen’s Anthony hearing more about the myth from William (Colman Domingo), who was a young child when the Candyman legend began. William describes how police killed Sherman (Michael Hargrove), a neighborhood Black man with a hook for a hand, who was accused of putting a razor blade in a young white girl’s Halloween candy.
“What shows up a couple weeks later?” William asks. “More razor blades in more candy. That’s when we knew Sherman had been innocent, harmless. But that wasn’t the last we saw of Sherman.”
DaCosta said the original film “was always about the cyclical nature of violence,” including “how violence begets violence and how urban legends are created from these really horrifying moments in our history and a community’s history and our collective conscious.”
Anthony and Brianna’s relationship – and the inception of Candyman’s horror – takes center stage in the third and final clip previewed.
“The legend is, if you say his name five times while looking at the mirror, he appears in the reflection and kills you,” Anthony says. “So I thought that we could summon him.”
He gets an incredulous laugh and a “hell no” from Brianna, but Anthony proceeds to say “Candyman” five times in the mirror. As she playfully fights with Anthony after he repeats the name, Brianna notices a bee sting on his hand – foreshadowing the fright to come.
The film festival teasers arrive after the first trailer for the “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 film.
First ‘Candyman’ trailer: Say the ghost’s name five times and die in Jordan Peele’s horror sequel
“The thing that I loved about that movie so much that I wanted to bring to our version of the film was body horror. I think that was a huge part of the original film: Candyman opening up his chest and you see his ribcage and the bees, and you see him swallowing the bees, and his stump,” DaCosta said. “The way he kills people it’s not superhero sort of logic, it’s very much like he’s a person digging a hook through a body, and that kind of grounded reality, which is what actually makes it feel so disturbing to me.”
The director said the movie is “about someone’s journey with their sanity, with their relationship to self, to the neighborhood they live in, to the world that they are learning more about around them, and I wanted to stay true to that.”
ABFF runs through Aug. 30 and is streaming more than 90 films celebrating Black cinema, as well as panel discussions featuring Kenya Barris, Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union, Mary J. Blige and Lena Waithe.
Contributing: Bryan Alexander
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