How Candyman Makes Chicago A Character And Tackles Gentrification Through Horror

It's been almost 30 years since the original "Candyman" movie introduced horror fans to the sight of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago. In that time, Cabrini-Green has undergone gentrification, and the new "Candyman" movie, out August 27, 2021, will explore that.

Cabrini-Green isn't just the name of an iconic piece of music composed by Philip Glass for the 1992 film's Gothic film score. It's also a real place on the North Side of Chicago with a lot of history behind it. There was a time when Cabrini-Green's name was something of a byword for public housing problems in the U.S. However, most of the original buildings were demolished a decade ago and the neighborhood has since been redeveloped and gentrified.

/Film's own Danielle Ryan was in attendance at a press conference for Nia DaCosta's upcoming take on "Candyman," where star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II spoke about the legacy of Cabrini-Green within and beyond the film.

"Well, the story of 'Candyman,' the story of Cabrini-Green, is not only central to Cabrini-Green in Chicago," he explained. "There's a Cabrini-Green all throughout the world and all throughout America. But to go to Chicago, specifically, I think it was really our duty to go back and to pay our respects."

He continued by adding:

"We're talking about a neighborhood or people who have been made to be the other in their own neighborhoods, and are now outnumbered and out-resourced, but yet still there and still being resilient and proud of where they're from and living full lives. So, I think it was our duty to go back there and to say, 'Hey, we have not forgotten about you. We're going to make another Candyman.' It's only right that we come back to Cabrini-Green and to Chicago. So, it was important to do that, but you can't miss it. You have Cabrini-Green, and then you have everything surrounding Cabrini-Green, and you wonder how long that's going to be left and what the faces are going to look like. You talk about ghosts and things like that. It's like the old residents of Cabrini-Green are now the haunts. It's kind of eerie when you look at it from an economic standpoint what has happened there and how the faces have changed."

Candyman's Locations and Production Design

Director Nia DaCosta also spoke about shooting on location in Chicago and the film's production design. For "Candyman," she's working with production designer Cara Bower, who is reteaming with her (along with star Teyonah Parris) on the upcoming "Captain Marvel" sequel, "The Marvels."

"Cara Brower is brilliant," DaCosta said. "She and I had such an amazing time collaborating on it because she's really smart and we have similar tastes and she can really elevate something."

She continued:

"And she took all my references and she brought her own things to the table. And for us, we really knew we wanted to work in reflections, we wanted to work with darkness in light and what you see and what you don't. We wanted to exploit real locations. So we shoot in places that really existed. We don't shoot on stages too much. And even when we did build, for example, we built a gallery, we built that in the neighborhood where at the galleries, there where the gallery would have been, we went to what I call the honeycomb buildings in Chicago to shoot there because we were like, those are amazing. We just do a lot to really make it feel as well as possible. So like, if you were from Chicago, you're like, 'Yep. That makes sense. Yes. That makes sense.' There's a restaurant we shoot in where our art friends in Chicago were like, 'Oh yeah, that's where everyone goes, for whatever.' And so it was about the themes and the visuals, but also about making something that felt authentic and real."

The original "Candyman" had a unique sense of place to it, and DaCosta, as a filmmaker, appreciated that. "I think the key thing for us," she said, "was you have to go back to the scene of the crime, as it were."

She continued, "I think we would want to connect to the land, to the place because the story of Cabrini-Green isn't over. Because now it is a story about a community that's been disappeared from that location. And we want to talk about what was left behind. So gentrification just ended up having to be a part of the story in a bigger way."

Colman Domingo on the On-Set Spirit (or Spirits)

We learned previously that real "Candyman"-esque honeybees showed up on set, and co-star Colman Domingo and other cast and crew members told us they won't say "Candyman" five times in a mirror. Responding to a question about whether there was any other spookiness on set, Domingo talked about his process as an actor and how he interacted with Cabrini-Green.

"I think because we were shooting in the Cabrini-Green projects where this took place," he said, "I'm just one of those actors that is very feeling because I think part of our job to be open vessels is to invite in spirit to help you tell the story. And I know I put out an invitation to bring in any of the spirits that was useful to help tell this story so I can get it right."

He continued:

"I know it was there and it was alive in every frame. And especially around Cabrini-Green because you know, these towers were about to be torn down and then suddenly, I'm sure a Target store or Starbucks or Staples is going to be built on top or condominiums. But these are people and their lives and I think that we need to invite them to tell their stories and tell stories so they're not forgotten so that we do learn and we do get better."

"Candyman" is in theaters on August 27, 2021.