When Candyman premiered in 1992, it was a breath of fresh air for both slashers and the horror genre. The titular killer, played by Tony Todd, is no mutilated nightmare monster or silent masked maniac, but a dignified, poetic, and even sympathetic mirror-dwelling phantom.
The plot covers intriguing topics like the source of urban legends, issues of social class and race, and the truly terrifying question of whether belief has the ability to manifest the corporeal. These themes were interesting enough to spawn three more installments spanning from the '90s to the 2020s, and every new film added to Candyman's lore.
But that lore can get rather convoluted along the way, especially the parts that aren't chronological. So here is the history of Candyman, from his birth to his latest (but probably not last) resurrection.
In 1992, Helen Lyle Comes To The Cabrini-Green Housing Project To Investigate The Candyman LegendPhoto: Candyman / Tri Star Pictures
As the story of Daniel Robitaille became the story of Candyman, his bloody stump gained a hook, the bees became an omen of his ghost's arrival, and chanting his name into a mirror - like the taunts of the crowd - became his summoning spell. The third film, Day of the Dead, even specified that the crowd chanted his name five times before he succumbed to his stings. Over the years, his place of passing, Cabrini-Green, became a ghetto, and residents blamed their misfortunes on his vengeful ghost.
Then, in 1992, after a particularly harsh year of 26 killings in the area, his legend started to leak out to the rest of the world. Newspapers reported the killing of one Ruthie Jean in great detail, noting how she called 911 to report a stranger coming through her bathroom mirror. Her case caught the attention of Helen Lyle, a graduate student writing her thesis on urban legends. This is the start of the first film.
With a new focus on Candyman specifically, Lyle's actions during her research actually discredited his existence. Her thesis claimed that his myth was nothing more than a coping device for the stresses of living in the ghetto, and when she was bombarded by a gang member while looking around the housing project, police apprehended him and assumed he was responsible for the Candyman killings, "disproving" the myth. But, just as Lyle began to feel safe in her conviction that none of this was real, her hubris ended up summoning the real Candyman.
Lyle Appears To Defeat Candyman, But She Sacrifices Herself To Save Anthony McCoyPhoto: Candyman / Tri Star Pictures
Candyman explains that he appeared to Lyle because she discredited his legend, and now innocent blood must be shed to rebuild it. This manifests in his framing her for multiple killings over the course of the movie before she tries to take her own life in the film's final showdown back at the housing project.
Having kidnapped young Cabrini-Green resident Anthony McCoy (the infant son of Ruthie Jean's neighbor, Anne-Marie), Candyman trapped the child and Helen in a pyre. He intended to take both of them out in a fiery blaze that would once again instill fear of him into the community's heart. However, she managed to fight him off, and as he seemingly succumbed to the heat, she was able to carry Anthony out of the pyre. She used her body to shield him from the flames, sacrificing her life to save his. Unfortunately, in the wake of her passing, she received the blame for the Candyman killings and seemingly became a vengeful, murderous spirit herself, gaining her own place in the local mythos.
In 1995, Three Years After The Chicago Killings, Candyman Is Resurrected In New OrleansPhoto: Farewell to the Flesh / Gramercy Pictures
Although Helen seemingly defeated Candyman in 1992, just three years later, more gruesome killings in the Candyman style - in which the targets are sliced up with a hook - began popping up, this time in New Orleans.
This marks the entrance of schoolteacher Annie Tarrant, the previously mentioned great-granddaughter of Daniel Robitaille who grew up in his house of birth without knowing her roots. She refused to believe an urban legend was responsible for so much misery, and even said Candyman's name the requisite five times into a mirror in front of her class to prove her disbelief and assuage their fears. Unfortunately for her, the summons worked, and on the eve of Mardi Gras, the man with the hook returned.
Annie Destroys The Mirror That Holds Candyman's SoulPhoto: Farewell to the Flesh / Gramercy Pictures
Candyman's reappearance in New Orleans marked the franchise's first sequel, Farewell to the Flesh. Over the course of this film, Candyman proved he had no qualms about targeting his own family, as he took the lives of both of Annie's parents (his grandchildren) and Annie's husband (who had recently conceived his great-great-granddaughter with Annie), and he caused the demise of her brother (his great-grandson). Essentially, Annie became his last remaining descendant, and he made it clear he intended to dispatch her, as well, to achieve his ultimate goal: to reunite the entire bloodline in the afterlife.
Annie eventually uncovered not only the truth about her past, but also that the mirror Caroline hid away all those years ago remained in the basement of Esplanade Plantation. Candyman himself even confirmed that the mirror was the source of his strength. Once he made his plans clear, Annie broke it, seemingly destroying him.
Once the mirror broke, the house that birthed the Candyman legend was essentially washed away in a climactic flooding scene.