It happens every year. We, as a horror community, are sitting around, sharing memes with one another and minding our own business, when news drops into our laps that one of our favorite childhood films is being revisited. To say that the results are a mixed-bag would be putting it mildly. For every success (2017’s IT), we have three or four missteps (2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, literally every Hellraiser sequel ever made [sorry, Dad-Bod Pinhead]), so it’s understandable that people get nervous when Hollywood starts sniffing around our favorite properties and franchises. With news breaking this week that Jordan Peele is in talks to remake Candyman, a lot of people have raised their Online Voices in dismay.
“Why must you remake all of the classics?” we wail at the heavens while rending our garments. “Can’t Hollywood think of anything new or original anymore?”, we ask as we douse ourselves in gasoline and set each other on fire. I understand that Candyman is a classic in the horror genre, and people tend to be protective of the classics that they love, but the violent apprehension we have seen this week has been hard to understand. So, let’s take a step back and see what exactly it is about the 1992 classic that makes it a classic and why I think it is ripe for a remake.
Before we get started: Go into the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror, turn off the lights, and repeat after me…
Tony Todd gave us one of the most magnificent performances of all time when he donned the long coat and hooked stump for Candyman. At 6’5″, he had a physicality that was more intimidating than the other slashers that we had been given up to that point. I know that statement will cause a ruckus, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. Leatherface was fat and would get winded after a 40-yard dash, the latest variations of Michael Myers (Halloween 5: the Revenge of Michael Myers) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan) were both on the dad-bod side of life, and Freddy Krueger was never known for his musculature. Tony Todd gave us a handsome (sorry, the rest of you fellas), physically intimidating slasher that re-invigorated the genre.
I didn’t want to go with him, but I felt like I had to. I didn’t want to say his name, but the words came tumbling out of my mouth nonetheless. Candyman was a combination of scary, sexy, revolting and transfixing that I had not yet experienced at the movies. When you watch him in action, it’s more than fear you feel. It’s romance. It’s seduction. He has a rousing quality to him that counts only Count Dracula as a rival. Before Candyman, ‘What To Do When a Slasher is Coming After You 101’ was the easiest course in town. This was before reddit got their hands on the Babadook and Daddy Pennywise, remember? After Todd and his hooked stump came on the scene, however, you were almost unsure if you wanted to run or to join him and be immortal.
This is the aspect of the film that makes people the most apprehensive. Who could you possibly cast in the place of the legendary Tony Todd? My answer is simply, “No-one”. You don’t need to replace Todd as Candyman. Bring him back to reprise the role in a new film, one that updates the narrative for a modern audience. He is still a working actor and hasn’t lost any of his charm or physicality. Bring him back. That would be the perfect way for Peele to bridge the gap between the die-hard devotees of the original and those that are excited for a remake.
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman…
The other aspect of Candyman that struck fear into the heart of every kid in my town was the setting. For the first time in our lives, we are seeing a slasher who stalks the inner city. The Caprini-Green Homes were constantly on our television screens being touted as the most dangerous place on earth. We were told tales about the violence that went on there on a daily basis. That’s not to say that Caprini-Green wasn’t a dangerous place. It was. Back in 1981, then-Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne moved her and her family into a upper-level apartment to prove that it was safe. Even with around-the-clock security and having welded the back entrance to her apartment shut, she still only lasted three weeks.
It’s true that there were some bad men that lived and thrived in Caprini-Green, and Candyman capitalizes on that danger in every frame of the film. The graffiti-coated walls and dark corners showed us a world that had been left behind. The urban decay we saw within that neighborhood was real, and it soaked every image with a danger and a fear that most of us had never felt or experienced before. It resonated so well for people in the early 1990’s because these projects were featured in news stories and magazine articles. Even if you were from Phoenix, Arizona, you knew what Caprini-Green was all about.
While the setting is the perfect vehicle for the dread we feel in this film, it is dated. The Caprini-Green Homes have all been torn down and replaced with expensive high-rises and coffee shops. Kids in today’s America would find it just as hard to relate to that aspect of the story as we do watching The Andy Griffith Show. It’s a different time, a different place, and one that we don’t recognize. It’s that fear of the unknown and the perpetuation of a centralized narrative that bring me to the final aspect of the film that makes it the masterpiece it is: Feeding the Tulpa.
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman…
Shoutout to Supernatural and Last Podcast on the Left for making me aware of tulpas and helping me make the connection to Candyman. For those of you who don’t know, a tulpa is an entity that is conjured solely from the psychic powers of the summoner. In other words, it is a monster that comes to life simply because enough people believe in it and fear it. The Candyman is the perfect example of a tulpa. He gets his power from the fear of his ability to do harm. When that fear begins to subside, he begins to lose his power and must shed innocent blood to regain it. And believe me, even as a young child, I could feel that power leaving the screen and entering the real world.
This is where the story has so much promise for today’s audience. In 1992, there were no smart phones. There was no social media. People couldn’t Snapchat with you about the Candyman or tell spooky stories about him on reddit. His powers were limited to the areas surrounding the housing project, and even then they would wane if he was not feared enough. Imagine, for one second, a true Candyman tulpa that is being fed by the fear of people all around the world. His videos go viral, his kills become legendary, and his power is limitless. This is an interesting concept that could turn a new iteration of Candyman into an all-time classic.
Even without an iPhone or the Vine (RIP), I was in the grade school bathroom with the lights off, saying his name. All of my friends were outside, waiting to see what happened. Would I come out of there with bees crawling out of the terrible wound in my chest? Would I come out screaming with a hook in my back? Would I come out at all? Of course I did, since I’m sitting here writing this article in a cough-medicine-induced haze, but I can’t tell you with a straight face that I ever said his name that fifth, and final, time. That’s what makes me want to see this story remade. I want future generations to enjoy this story as much as we all got to. This may sound weird, but I want my son to be afraid to be in the bathroom with the lights off. I want him to stare into the mirror, trying to detect the slightest movements out of the corner of his eye, and feed the tulpa just like his Dad did 30 years earlier.
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candym-
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