Tom Jolliffe looks at the recent rumours about Jordan Peele producing a Candyman remake…
Jordan Peele has come a long way in the last 18 months. Predominantly known for his work in comedy, particularly in unison with Keegan-Michael Key, there’s always been an element of social commentary and historical context in whatever Peele has creatively overseen.
Get Out, one of the sleeper hits of last year, took everyone by surprise. On the surface a horror sprinkled liberally with doses of comedy, but beneath that, bitingly satirical, prescient and intelligent. I re-watched Get Out again just days ago and it’s gone up even further in my estimation from when I first saw it. A great mix of racial and cultural dissection, with wonderfully skilled delivery of genre thrills. In addition, it looks utterly fantastic. It’s exquisitely shot and visually engaging. For all that Peele, even with tongue slightly within cheek, wants to get the audience (perhaps more so the white audience) to take an objective step back to look at the wider points of the film, at the heart, he still wants to make a great horror film, and a film that’s bristling with wit and humour. So under each remit he’s set out to achieve there, he has done so with aplomb. We watch, we are thrilled, we’re engaged, we’re visually arrested but by the end we’re thinking, we’re digesting and we’re discussing. It’s one of the best screenplays of recent times.
Peele then teamed up with Spike Lee. To say Lee is an icon in Black cinema would be an understatement. Peele, fresh off the success and box office performance of Get Out, put his name on the board for BlacKkKlansman. Lee is still a prolific film-maker. His most iconic and insightful works remain his films of the late 80’s and 90’s which really came about with a sense of vibrancy, creativity and raw energy, but above all with social commentary that opened up audiences to subjects previously unseen in mainstream cinema. Sure we had the Blaxsploitation era but to an extent they were fantastical. They had the exploitation element and to a degree were made to be larger than life, near cartoon. Be it Cleopatra Jones or Shaft, or Foxy Brown, they were pure fantasy. Lee turned the style up certainly, but he opted to show social reality through wry humoured eyes with the likes of She’s Gotta Have It, Jungle Fever or Do The Right Thing.
Coming up to Blackkklansman, Lee’s pulling power was perhaps marginally on the wane. As a commentator he’s not as prolific as he once was. He’s done Hollywood blockbusters with mixed results, whether it was Inside Man, or the unnecessary Oldboy remake. Chi-raq which almost reverted back to pure blaxplo era theatrics went by almost unnoticed. Klansman brought Lee back to historical context, as we saw in his heyday with Malcolm X. The critical response saw Lee get his best reviews in years, and furthermore a respectable box office placing, but in addition, thanks to the marketing and the presence of Peele on the production, that must surely have aided in the films genesis and indeed, success. Further, it also ties Peele to a project with a grand-master, a forerunner to his own opportunities and subsequent success, and another project which unifies the historic context with the prescient (in an increasingly divisive, Trump lead America).
So what next for Peele? He has the social horror/thriller, Us (starring Elizabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o). Not a huge amount is known on that but the keyword ‘social’ suggests that beneath the thrills there will be a layer of insight and social dissection. He has also been rumoured as a potential producer for a remake of Candyman.
Based on the short story ‘The Forbidden’ written by horror maestro Clive Barker, the original film was directed by horror specialist, Bernard Rose. It was particularly iconic in the 90’s, spawning two sequels (albeit poor sequels). Additionally thanks to the presence of Tony Todd as the titular bad guy and the unsettling gothic score from Philip Glass, the film has attained a certain genre classic status. That said, it’s memory of late has dwindled, and it’s not a film you might deem untouchable from the gnarly finger of the remake reaper. Candyman is a film that almost achieves the status of films like Halloween or A Nightmare On Elm Street as far as horror goes. It’s a really good film, but because it’s not quite a great film (despite having great moments) it could definitely pass muster for a worthwhile remake.
Beyond the great concept, based on an amalgamation of urban legends, the complex villain and the great photography and music, there’s another aspect of Candyman that often gets overlooked. It’s an aspect that remains relevant today. It deals with social class divides. It deals with socio-racial divides. It deals with ghettos. It portrays an all too real world where districts are split into near racially, and entirely class divided sections. Where property developers view the properties and their financial prospect over the welfare of those who inhabit either those properties, or the areas they want to put them up in. Where entire communities are moved on from areas deemed worthy of regeneration in order to place the wealthy in the newly built and swankier apartments. This isn’t just film fiction, it is social reality and it’s possibly more relevant today than when the original film was written almost 30 years ago. This is where Peele comes in.
Whether Jordan Peele were to direct it, or whether he hands it over to an upcoming director, there’s a lot you can say in a Candyman film (perhaps with a more insightful and considered hand than Rose as far as some stereotyping goes). The best part is, whilst the original was a moderate financial success, Peele has proven with Get Out that he can strike several levels above that. He can reach even wider audiences and he can say things to the wider audiences that maybe aren’t being said to them enough. The whole horror aspect of Candyman has so much potential. Even that opening rule…say his name five times in a mirror and he’ll appear. It’s great. Yes it’s based on countless old myths but it’s ruthlessly effective in its simplicity. I’m not even sure I’ve ever said Candyman in a mirror five times to this day…you know, just in case.
This is the key part. Peele can dive into ideas of divided communities and pushing the poor into districts, or tearing down districts and houses for the end goal of making money even if it costs people homes, maybe lives ultimately. He can delve into the shittiness of a system where a billionaire can buy the presidency. As Peele has already proven though, the key to doing this successfully, and in getting people to listen and appreciate that society is not right, is to engage them as a film-going audience. Get Out pushed people to watch and look introspectively at themselves, but what it did foremost was engage as a piece of exciting cinema. Candyman as a remake has countless potential to be THE horror film of recent times. It can do this on several levels, by taking the social commentary of the original and delving perhap more deeply into it. It can craft and perfect what Rose’s film laid out as a piece of horror cinema too. Maybe too, it can add an additional sprinkle of satire and wit where appropriate, without compromising horror.
While the original Candyman almost climbed to the top of the horror mountain, just coming short, a remake under Jordan Peele’s watchful eye could reach the levels he achieved with Get Out. If he does that, with such an iconic, even tragic villain, he’s got a horror classic on his hands. I say this as someone who normally scoffs at the idea of remakes, but the time is definitely right for a remake of Candyman.
Would you like to see a remake of Candyman overseen by Jordan Peele? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on social media…