It’s official — I will never be able to listen to Destiny’s Child without fearing for my life again. The very first trailer for Jordan Peel’s reimagining of Candyman follows in the footsteps of 2019’s Us by embracing the slow pop hit cover, choosing the aptly-titled “Say My Name,” as the background track for images that will soon haunt your nightmares.
Directed by Nia DaCosta (Little Woods), the movie expands on the 1992 blockbuster, returning to the now gentrified neighbourhood that once housed the Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago. The trailer opens with a group of white high school girls summarising the legend in a bathroom: If you say Candyman’s name five times into a mirror, he’ll appear and murder you. (Think Beetlejuice — but so much worse.) Dismissing the tale as a spooky story, they proceed to do just that. Suddenly a door slams, and in classic Peele misdirection, a black student walks in. The subtext: Candyman isn’t the only kind of “other” these girls have been taught to fear.
But as the girls roll their eyes, admit it was a little scary, and turn to exit, they realise the bathroom door is locked. We never see Candyman, but we do get a good glimpse at the bees that follow him wherever he roams. And we most definitely hear the cries of terror as he slays his victims with his signature hook.
“Gentrification is what helped us to reimagine this story, because Cabrini-Green is gone,” DaCosta said in a Q&A following a special presentation of the trailer on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of development in that neighbourhood because Cabrini-Green has been torn down. What we wanted to talk about was the ghosts that are left behind.”
In this “spiritual sequel,” Anthony McCoy (played by Lenesha and Latesha Martin in the original, and Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul Mateen II in the sequel) is all grown up, and an artist whose interest in the Candyman legend leads him to frame an entire installation around him. It’s a creative nod to the original movie, in which we find out Candyman (played by Tony Todd) was a painter who fell in love with the white subject of one of his portraits, leading to the horrifying lynching that turned him into a monster. DaCosta uses that concept as an opportunity for some pretty fantastic visuals: neon lights, reflecting mirrors, and shadowy paintings all add to the general atmosphere of terror and chaos. But the way the film uses horror to delve deep into themes of social justice and racial inequality is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Peele, who co-wrote the script and also produced.
Introducing the trailer on Wednesday, Peele explained that his connection to the original Candyman runs deep. “It was one of the few movies that explored any aspect of the black experience through horror in the ‘90s, when I was growing up,” he said.
DaCosta also stressed its importance as a tool for representation at a time where there were few. “Seeing a black anti-hero who made it to the end of the film was really important,” she said.
With that in mind, the director stressed that one of the aspects of her own film she’s most proud of is the cast, which includes The Photograph’s Teyonah Parris, If Beale Street Could Talk’s Colman Domingo, Four Weddings and a Funeral’s Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Vanessa Williams, reprising her original role as Anne-Marie McCoy, Anthony’s mother.
“There are so many black people in this trailer and in this movie,” she said. “All of our leads are black, and that is so exciting to me!”
So, real talk: How scary should we expect this movie to be, a.k.a on a scale from 1 to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, how much will it haunt me when I get up to pee in the middle of the night? According to DaCosta, we should all be bracing ourselves. This is no Get Out, where most of the horror is psychological.
“I really love gore,” she said. “It’s something Jordan and I talked a lot about. Our horror aesthetics are different. Jordan is really brilliant at not showing everything and my instinct is to do the exact opposite. There’s a good amount of things you don’t want to see, that I make you look at.”
Watch the full trailer below.