The horror world has been abuzz over the news that Jordan Peele is interested in remaking Candyman, the 1992 film about a murdered slave, Candyman (Tony Todd), who will appear if you repeat his name in the mirror. It’s unclear if Peele would actually direct the film or produce it, but regardless, though Candyman is not that old, its themes of gentrification and the past never staying dead are deserving of an update. After the success of Get Out, Peele is the right person to oversee the project if it moves forward.
Candyman is a film that I really like and recently re-watched. Directed by Bernard Rose and based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” it is atmospheric and haunting. Set in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing project, as opposed to Liverpool, the setting of Barker’s story, the film is moody and deals with issues of class, race, and gentrification without being preachy or over-the-top. Of the filming location and housing project, Rose said that it is “an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear.” Yet, who and what are we supposed to fear? These are questions the film asks. The protagonist, Helen Lye (Virginia Madsen), is a white graduate student interested in researching folk tales and myths, which brings her to the housing project and the history of the Candyman myth. Her arrival poses a lot of questions. Is she merely using the housing project and its impoverished residents to further her own agenda? Would she bother to care about any of the residents if not for her research and her personal goal of academic noteriety? Regardless, Helen forces her way into the housing project, snapping photo after photo, taking what she needs in the process. Residents clearly know that she doesn’t belong, but that doesn’t stop her from invading their space. At one point, she literary crawls through a hidden hole to enter another apartment where a murder occurred.
(Helen played by Virginia Madsen)
Candyman’s story, meanwhile, uses tropes found throughout African American literature and film. He is a murdered slave who fell in love with a white woman and was brutally killed as a result. The past, so to speak, never really stays dead, and once Candyman is summoned, he seeks revenge with a bloody hook hand, while speaking in suave Victorian language. Tony Todd’s performance is one of the real highlights of the film, and it would be hard to find someone to top him.
(Candyman played by Tony Todd)
It is unclear how quickly production will move forward with a Candyman remake, if it happens at all; however, Jordan Peele is the right person to produce or direct the project. Get Out shows that he has a clear understanding of class and race, specifically how they are intertwined. Candyman does not necessarily need a remake, but I would be interested to see Peele’s take.