Candyman's Tragic, Racially-Charged Origin Explained

The hook-handed slasher known as Candyman is one of horror's most fearsome villains, but his origin story reveals a tragic path to legendary status.

The hook-handed slasher known as Candyman is one of horror's most fearsome villains, but his origin story reveals a tragic path to legendary status. Based on the Clive Barker story The Forbidden, the first Candyman film released in 1992, garnering critical praise. Candyman wasn't a massive box office hit, but it did fine, and quickly developed a loyal following. Many regard Candyman, directed by Bernard Rose, as one of the best horror movies of the 1990s, so its no real wonder that it received two sequels in that same decade.

In 1995, Candyman returned, once again played by Tony Todd, for Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. The sequel, directed by future Oscar-winner Bill Condon, isn't as widely beloved as the original, but it's still got a sizeable following. 1999's final - to date - Candyman entry, Candyman: Day of the Dead, represented a major step down for the franchise, despite Todd doing his best to liven up things whenever the titular character was onscreen.

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Candyman is set to return to theaters in 2020, via a new film directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Get Out's Jordan Peele. Described as a "spiritual sequel," it's a bit unclear how this movie will connect to prior films, although Tony Todd will reportedly be back as Candyman. In the meantime, let's take a look back at Candyman's harrowing, gruesome origin story, a tale that makes him one of the most sympathetic murderers in horror history.

Candyman Was Once a Normal Person Named Daniel Robitaille

The minutiae surrounding Candyman's human existence is told a bit different in the first Candyman than it is in Farewell to the Flesh, but the essence of the story remains the same. Daniel Robitaille was the son of a former slave who managed to ascend to higher levels of society by inventing a machine to mass produce shoes following the end of the Civil War. Daniel, a talented painter, grew up seemingly accepted as a member of the elite, attending ivy league schools and associating with wealthy white people. Unfortunately, as an adult, Daniel was hired by a rich white man to paint a portrait of his daughter Caroline, and the two fell in love, resulting in the conception of a child. Needless to say, Daniel's employer wasn't pleased about that development.

Daniel Robitaille Became Candyman After His Brutal Murder

In a vile - but sadly not uncommon in America's history - act of racism and hate, Caroline's father gathered a lynch mob, and the group tracked Daniel down and killed him in an absolutely horrific way. Daniel's right hand was sawed off, leading to the Candyman's trademark hook taking its place. He was then covered in honey and attacked by a swarm of bees. Daniel died an agonizing, drawn-out death, leaving Caroline heartbroken. As they killed him, the mob chanted "Candyman" at Daniel, and the name was also his final word, said into a mirror held up by Caroline's father.

Of course, following his death, Daniel became first an urban legend, then an actual supernatural boogeyman called Candyman, and the rest is horror history. The original Candyman film heavily implied that Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) was the reincarnation of Candyman's lost love, although it was never explicitly confirmed, and Helen didn't appear in any further sequels. In Farewell to the Flesh, the protagonist is Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan), revealed to be a direct descendant of Daniel and Caroline. That film also features Daniel's death depicted visually, and it's just as hard to watch as it is to read about. While Candyman, by virtue of being a killer, is still definitely a villain, it's not hard to understand why his spirit is so full of rage.

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Key Release Dates
  • Candyman (2020) release date: Jun 12, 2020
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