Candyman: Everything You Need To Know From The Original Before You Watch The New Movie

"Candyman" and his bees are buzzing into theaters this weekend, and despite the title, this is actually a sequel, not a remake. With that in mind, it's probably best to have some general idea about what the heck happened in the first movie. Never fear — I'm here to help refresh your memory. 

To be clear: even if you've never seen the first "Candyman," the new movie won't be completely over your head. It actually does a pretty good job recapping the events of the original. Still, it helps to have a refresher. I promise to keep this as spoiler-free as possible in regards to the new movie, but there will almost certainly be spoilers for the original. 

The Forbidden: The Origin of Candyman

"Candyman" originated as a short story called "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker, the writer and horror filmmaker responsible for "Hellraiser." Since Barker was a big deal in horror circles when "Candyman" came out in '92, his name was splashed all over the marketing material. But here's the thing: the short story is considerably different than the film. All the building blocks are there — a woman named Helen investigating a mysterious urban legend named Candyman; a community that lives in fear of their own personal boogeyman; and so on. 

However, Barker's story is set in England as opposed to the Chicago setting of "Candyman," and Candyman himself is vastly different. In Barker's tale, he's a white guy wearing a costume that looks like it has been cobbled together from other clothing, kind of like the Batman villain Crazy Quilt. It was director Bernard Rose who decided to transport the film from the UK to Chicago and focus on the Black community living in Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing projects while also making Candyman himself Black. Still, Barker's story served as the impetus for the film to come.

Say His Name

The 1992 "Candyman" film introduces us to Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) a grad student working on a thesis on urban legends with her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons). Their digging into local legends leads them to the story of Candyman, a boogeyman who is rumored to haunt the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago. As the story goes, if you say Candyman in front of a mirror five times, Candyman will appear — and gut you with his hook for a hand. There are even a series of real-life murders that the locals blame on Candyman. Helen and Bernadette don't believe Candyman is real, of course. But they're fascinated by the local legend. 

"An entire community starts attributing the daily horrors of their lives to a mythical figure!" Helen says, excited. And, for a laugh, she goes ahead and chants Candyman's name in front of her own mirror one night. And...nothing happens. At least at first. 

Sweets to the Sweet

Helen thinks her investigation into the Candyman legend is going to give her a killer paper. She meets and befriends a Cabrini-Green local and single mother named Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams), and brags to her boyfriend, college professor Trevor (Xander Berkeley), about the work she's doing. But in truth, she doesn't have all the details — and she learns that the hard way while dining out one night with Trevor and one of his friends, a smug intellectual named Purcell (Michael Culkin). As it turns out, Purcell has more info about Candyman than Helen. He proceeds to tell her the backstory.

Candyman was the son of a slave born in the 1800s. Candyman (we never learn his real name in the original, but the sequel, "Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh," reveals it to be Daniel Robitaille) grew up to be a renowned artist. During the course of his artistic career, he was hired to paint the portrait of the daughter of a wealthy white man. Candyman and his artistic subject fell in love, and soon the young woman was pregnant. When the woman's rich father learned that his daughter had been impregnated by a Black man, he sent a mob after Candyman. The mob brutally beat Candyman, cut off his hand, and smothered his body with honey from a nearby apiary. The bees proceeded to sting Candyman to death, at which point his body was burned and his ashes scattered on the grounds of what would one day become Cabrini-Green. Helen is disturbed by the story, but the disturbing stuff is only just beginning. 

Be My Victim

Helen returns to Cabrini-Green for more research, but ends up being brutally attacked by a gang. The gang is led by a man who has adopted the Candyman persona, and after the assault, Helen assumes that this man is the Candyman figure the locals were really afraid of, not some ghost. But of course, she's wrong. Sometime after the assault occurs, Helen encounters a shadowy figure in a parking garage. This figure turns out to be the real Candyman, played by Tony Todd. He says that he came because Helen summoned him (Clive Barker-related stories are big on supernatural forces being summoned, see: "Hellraiser). Helen blacks out, only to wake up inside Anne-Marie's apartment covered in blood. The blood is from Anne-Marie's dog, which has been decapitated. And wouldn't ya know it, Helen just happens to be holding a bloody cleaver. As if all of this didn't look awful enough, Anne-Marie's infant son Anthony is missing. 

The police arrest Helen, assuming she killed the dog and did something with the baby. Of course, no one will believe her claims that a ghost is the real killer. Trevor bails Helen out of jail, but she doesn't get to enjoy her freedom for very long. Bernadette stops by to see how Helen is doing, only to be murdered by Candyman. Once again, the cops think Helen is the killer and she ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Helen's problems are far from over: Candyman shows up later and murders Helen's doctor, and Helen escapes. She returns home only to find that Trevor has been having an affair with one of his students. Completely alone and feeling utterly hopeless, all seems lost for Helen. She eventually returns to Cabrini-Green to confront Candyman once and for all. Candyman wants Helen to be his victim, because that will help his legend live on. In the midst of all this, the residents of Cabrini are about to have a big bonfire in the courtyard — unaware that the kidnapped baby has been stashed away inside the pyre. The fires are lit, Helen is able to stab Candyman (this is a little unclear, since he's a ghost and all, but let's just go with it) and rescue Anthony from the flames. However, Helen is badly burned in the process and dies. And so, too, does Candyman. Sort of. 

Later, after Helen is buried, Trevor is feeling guilty and ends up accidentally saying Helen's name in front of the bathroom mirror five times. And wouldn't ya know it, a ghostly Helen shows up and kills him, suggesting that she's the new Candyman (or I guess Candywoman). 

Candyman 2021

And now here we are, with "Candyman" 2021. Here are some things you need to know. First, despite the ending of the first movie, this sequel doesn't bother to continue with the "Helen is the new Candyperson!" idea. Instead, it brings in new — and old — characters. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays an artist who turns to the Cabrini-Green area for inspiration on a new project, only to learn all about the legend of Candyman. And the legend lives on, with deadly consequences. 

As for the previous "Candyman" sequels — "Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh" and "Candyman: Day of the Dead" — you can go ahead and pretty much ignore them, because the new movie sure does. The only detail really transferred over from the sequels is the real name of Candyman, Daniel Robitaille. Other than that, the new film serves as a direct sequel to the original, kind of like how "Halloween" from 2019 was a direct sequel to the original "Halloween." There are more direct connections to the first movie in store here, but I worry that giving them away would be spoilers, so you'll have to see for yourself when "Candyman" hits theaters on August 27, 2021.