In the new “Candyman,” Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris tell a scary story that explores real-world frights.
The horror movie arrives nearly three decades after the original 1992 flick and examines the traumatic circumstances that caused the death of a Black man who became the Candyman ghost.
“The story of Candyman is a history of unwilling martyrs,” Abdul-Mateen, 35, told the Daily News. “We have a couple figures in general who were turned into martyrs against their own will. In our first film, we have a ghost that haunts, and in this film we have a history, more so, that haunts.
“In some ways, that history is unavoidable, and eventually it turns into a narrative of taking back the history of your own trauma, and changing it into something different ... Changing how that lands and what happens when a trauma takes on a life of its own, so to speak. If you make a monster, then you get a monster.”
Out in theaters Friday, “Candyman” stars Abdul-Mateen and Parris as a couple in a gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the Cabrini-Green public housing used to stand.
Abdul-Mateen’s Anthony is an artist who becomes fascinated by a Cabrini-Green myth about the deadly Candyman, who appears when someone says his name five times in front of a mirror. Anthony incorporates the tale in his pieces, which Parris’ Brianna — an art director — features in her gallery.
Directed by Nia DaCosta, “Candyman” is co-written and produced by Jordan Peele, whose previous thought-provoking horror films include “Get Out” and “Us.”
“I grew up with the idea and the myth of Candyman, so being able to come in 30 years later and continue that legacy and to work with amazing artists like Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta, and really expanding what Candyman is (was exciting),” Parris, 33, told The News. “Is it an idea? Is it a person? And how that relates to where we are today and how it continues to be so relevant.”
Abdul-Mateen, who won an Emmy for “Watchmen” in 2019, also enjoyed delving deeper into the lore.
“It was just really a matter of truth, and daring to be just a bit more honest and allowing this Candyman figure who traditionally, at least in our memory, is known as a villain, just to make his history a bit more well-rounded,” Abdul-Mateen said. “We can humanize him a bit more and give him a backstory and a trajectory that allows us to have a bit more empathy for him.”
The new movie features actors from the original 1992 film’s cast, including Tony Todd, who returns as Candyman.
Parris, who portrayed Monica Rambeau on Marvel’s “WandaVision” series, and Abdul-Mateen praised Peele’s ability to explore social topics through horror.
“What resonates is that these are very much everyday, typical experiences in a Black community, and the fact that you can take it and put it in this genre is actually quite terrifying that it fits so perfectly,” Parris said.
“Just everyday stuff that people are going through. That sense of, ‘Wow, I see myself,’ or for those who don’t see themselves literally, ‘I see these humans that are going through a very particular experience and I can relate to it. I can empathize with them.’ It’s also flipped on its head. I’m receiving this in a way that’s not quite straightforward, and it’s making me look at this particular thing from a different perspective.”
Both actors say “Candyman” entertains, too.
“It’s very important to make sure that the horror is still there, that this is an entertaining experience for the audience, that it’s something that we want people to go fill up the seats safely and talk about the movie, and be afraid, and talk about it afterwards,” Abdul-Mateen said.
“It’s still a community experience. It’s not a lecture, or anything like that, by any means. It’s a scary movie that is going to be surprising in more ways than one.”