The locale of Nia DaCosta's forthcoming reimagining of the '90s horror movie Candyman helped the filmmaker find her story, she told reporters today during a conversation at an event held to unveil a first look at the trailer for the anticipated horror movie from producer Jordan Peele. Cabrini-Green, the housing project where the film took place, doesn't even exist anymore, a kind of meta-commentary on the 1992 film's own meta-commentary, which spoke to the paranoia that Americans felt about middle class anxieties about public housing in general. With Cabrini-Green gone and that aspect of the film's character taken away, the filmmakers had to find a way to honor that history without repeating it or ignoring what had happened since.
As a result, DaCosta said today, gentrification -- the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste -- is a key part of the new film's character. Without the eradication of Cabrini-Green, the new Candyman would have, by necessity, been a very different movie than the one fans will see this summer.
"Gentrification in our film is what helped us to reimagine the story, because Cabrini-Green is gone," DaCosta told reporters. "The movie in the '90s has a vision of Cabrini-Green where it's sort of on its way to being knocked down, and so going back there and seeing what's happened around that area –- there’s an Arclight really close to where Cabrini-Green used to be now, because it's gone, and a development in that area...but Cabrini itself has been left kind of untouched. So what we do in our film is talk about the ghosts that are left behind because of gentrification, in particular at Cabrini-Green. And that's how we find our way into our reimagining of Candyman."
The reputation that Peele brings to the film has, of course, helped to raise the expectation that social issues would be a part of the plot, allowing the filmmakers to deal with it head-on and not try to work around it like a lot of commercial movies would ask them to do.
"What was useful about working with Jordan is that he's so good at bringing the social issues to the fore in the genre, in horror, so that was something I know was already going to happen," DaCosta added. "But the original Candyman also does that really well. What we were able to do, because 30 years have passed and because it's been so much changed the neighborhood, in particular gentrification, was really dig into the themes that were already there, because in the original film they were already talking about the new buildings that are built and the way that products are built and moving between mirrors and apartments and how crime was able to happen because of how poorly those buildings were made versus the high rises they made for the middle class. So we talked a lot about all those things, and also just the fun of the original film, that was a huge part of what he wants to bring back because it's great to talk about these things but also it is a horror film after all, and we also want to do what the original film did, which is just be audacious, be fun, but also be meaningful."
"The original was a landmark film for black representation in the horror genre. Alongside Night of the Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as a filmmaker — and to have a bold new talent like Nia at the helm of this project is truly exciting," Peele said in a statement when the new film was announced. "We are honored to bring the next chapter in the Candyman canon to life and eager to provide new audiences with an entry point to Clive Barker’s legend."
Candyman is directed by Ni DaCosta and written by Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. It’s a direct sequel to the original Candyman movie from 1992. Tony Todd reprises his role as the title character. The film’s cast also includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo. Principal photography on the new Candyman began in August 2019 in the Chicago area. Filming wrapped in September 2019. The new Candyman movie will debut in movie theaters nationwide on June 12th.
Additional reporting by Scott Huver.