Horror Film Villain Candyman Is Back — Just Don’t Say His Name Five Times

What happens when you say ‘Candyman’ 5 times? Universal Pictures’ new horror film, an update of the 1992 original, has the gory answer.


Aug. 28 2021, Published 2:03 p.m. ET

If you don’t know what happens when you say “Candyman” five times, you can head to your local multiplex to find out. In the new horror film, as in the 1992 film that the new Candyman continues, uttering that name five times while looking in the mirror will summon the murderous spirit of the title.

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The original film — based on the Clive Barker short story “The Forbidden” — follows graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) as she investigates a series of murders at Chicago’s real-life Cabrini-Green housing project and learns of the legend of Candyman.

In the new film, Cabrini-Green is long gone, but the legend continues…

1992’s Candyman introduces the vengeful spirit, explaining that the Candyman is the ghost of an 1800s-era artist Daniel Robitaille, who fell in love with a white woman whose portrait he was commissioned to paint. The woman’s father sent a lynch mob after Daniel, and the mob cut off Daniel’s hand and covered his body with honey, leading bees to sting him to death.

In the film, Candyman would appear when someone spoke his name five times into a mirror, and he’d use his hook hand to kill them.

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The 2021 version of Candyman picks up nearly three decades after the events of the original film and follows Anthony McCoy (Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Brianna Cartwright (WandaVision’s Teyonah Parris), a couple that lives in an apartment on the old Cabrini-Green site.

As Anthony becomes obsessed with the Candyman story, the killer spirit (played again by Tony Todd) targets a new generation.

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Like the original, the new film serves as a social commentary on racial violence. “[As a kid], I remember I was like, ‘Oh my God, the movie terrifying.’ But, as an adult, I’m like, ‘Oh, that movie is not like terrifying so much as what it talks about is terrifying.’ It’s really chilling and like a weird idiosyncratic art movie,” director Nia DaCosta told Entertainment Weekly last month.

“Revisiting it again and again to prepare for this movie, I [realized] I have a lot more latitude and don’t have to be confined to, ‘I just have to scare people,’ because it’s about so much more than that.”

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What are critics saying about ‘Candyman’?

Critics have taken a liking to the 2021 update. The film has a 72 Metascore on Metacritic, indicating generally favorable reviews, and it’s “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with a Tomatometer score of 85 percent.

Candyman feels like a reclamation project of sorts,” writes Observer’s Brandon Katz. “One that will scare the pants off of you, yes, but also one that adds depth and resonance to the once-static slasher format.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt, meanwhile, wasn’t as wowed, writing, “Who can take a reboot, sprinkle it with something new, cover it with blood and bumblebees and a pointed social commentary or two? Candyman can, at least for a little while, even if the movie doesn’t really find its more-than-body-horror groove in the end.”

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Where can I watch the 2021 ‘Candyman’?

So far, Candyman is only playing in theaters, but Deadline reports the film has a 21-day theatrical window, meaning it could be available for rental or streaming as early as Friday, Sept. 17.

Other studios have released their pandemic-era films in theaters and on streaming simultaneously, but it seems like Universal Pictures’ Candyman bet paid off: The film is expected to bring in $20.7 million in its opening weekend, which Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro deems “a solid opening for a horror movie during late August, which isn’t exactly a primetime for the box office.”

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