Candyman in theaters today is the latest reimagining of the iconic character inspired by Clive Barker and played by horror God Tony Todd. Although Todd has a small cameo, he is not the focus of Nia Dacosta’s film. Instead, the enduring legend and the continuation of terror is the driving force. Figuratively and literally Anthony McCoy becomes hive. Some of the best body horror makeup in years shows Anthony’s transformation in all its glory in the final act. The current Candyman is only part of the greater whole, however. He is created from pain but maintained by fear and murder. He is a monster that haunts as much as protects those that believe. Candyman is the boogeyman and a totem for Black trauma. Here is everything you need to know about the 5 known faces of Candyman.
Clive Barker’s Candyman
Clive Barker, whose short story The Forbidden part of the Books of Blood Anthology was the inspiration for the title character found in all four Candyman movies, including the recent Nia DaCosta directed and Jordan Peele produced reimaging out today. His story leaned heavily into the making of cultural legends. Barker’s Candyman was not racially defined and lacked most of the specific iconography of the cinematic version, but his story was one of pain and fear. The things that influenced those urban myths, why they continue, and how they grow over time. His Candyman was the same monster portrayed by Tony Todd in all three of the previous Candymen movies. The original starring Virginia Madsen in 1992, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, and Candyman 3: Day of the Dead.
Tony Todd’s Candyman
The legendary Todd was Daniel Robitaille. Robitaille was a free black man who was a successful portrait artist. One of the rich men in town hired him to paint a picture of his daughter. The two fell in love and had an affair resulting in her pregnancy. When her father found out, he brutally tortured Robitaille by cutting off one of his hands, covering him in honey for bees to sting, and setting him on fire. He died on the land that later became Cabrini Green.
The residents of Cabrini-Green have perpetuated his legend similar to how superstitions are used to explain tragedies. Although it is never confirmed, it is wildly believed Helen Lyle, the graduate school student who becomes part of the enduring legend in the original, is Caroline, the woman Robataille fell in love with, reincarnated. Todd himself developed the backstory of Robitaille, who he initially named Glanville Candyman. The name was later changed to Daniel Robitaille.
Sherman Fields is the next version of Candyman that William Burke tells Anthony McCoy about in Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. Although he was a creepy seeming guy with a hook for a hand that lurked around in the walls of Cabrini-Green, he was actually a kindly old guy who gave candy to kids. Unfortunately, someone bad was supposedly putting razor blades in candy to hurt children. It is never explained if this happened or a story made up by hysterical parents and deceptive kids. In any case, the police believed the accusations and beat and killed Fields, who then became the supernatural extension of Candyman. Sometime later, Fields killed Burke’s sister in the bathroom. Burke found her as Candyman was leaving.
Burke becomes a tool of Candyman even if he doesn’t precisely become him. After seeing his father killed, the boy snapped. A lifetime spent living in Cabrini-Green watching the gentrification and neglect of his community made him a perfect conduit for Candyman. His extension of the ghost is angry, vengeful, and single-minded. He uses Anthony McCoy to perpetuate the legend and create yet another version of the Candyman. He cuts off Anthony’s hand, shoves a hook on it, places the iconic coat on him, and points him in the direction of the corrupt white cops who shot Anthony down and threaten to destroy Brianna if she doesn’t play along. If there is a sequel, he would be the likely title character.
In Candyman 2021, the concept of the ghost isn’t tied to a specific person as in Tony Todd’s Robitaille. Rather it is a hive being that is a sum of all the rage, racial violence, and inequality of the Black experience. The purpose of the legend is to remind people where they have come from and what they still need to fight against. With a few exceptions, this hive being only attacks white morons. Anthony’s publicist and his girlfriend, a group of high school, mean girls, an obnoxious art critic, and some terrible policeman notably. Anthony’s mother was in both the original movie and this one. She is terrified of Candyman and begs Anthony never to say his name.
The newest addition to the Candyman universe hits theaters today. The spiritual sequel to the original speaks directly to the society that built a monster from the ground up and the circumstances that allow him to endure. Read our full review here and beware those who don’t believe. He has a way of sneaking up on you.
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candy……….. Nope, I’m out!
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.