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This Candyman Shadow Puppet Short Film Is a Horrific Mirror You Can't Look Away From

The Candyman’s origins.
Image: Nia DaCosta

Much as the Candyman film franchise focuses on the stories of people foolish enough to summon a murderous ghoul into their midst by chanting his name, the films have always been, at their cores, gruesome reflections on the American legacy of anti-Black racism that led to the lynchings of thousands over the centuries.

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Though the Candyman himself went on to become the sort of urban legend whispered about within Black communities who all knew to fear the fates he’d inflict upon them if summoned, the spirit’s entire reason for existence was explicitly tied to a centuries-old act of racist, white violence inflicted on an innocent Black man simply because he dared to fall in love with a white woman. These realities about the Candyman’s legacy are the true horrors of each previous film in the series and things that director Nia DaCosta’s bringing to the fore in her new Candyman sequel that’s slated to release this fall.

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This week, DaCosta shared a short, shadow puppet film produced by Manual Cinema and scored by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe that juxtaposes the Candyman’s specific origins with the all-too-familiar stories of other Black men sentenced to death by mobs of white people with tastes for institutional racism and Black suffering. DaCosta said, “Candyman, at the intersection of white violence and black pain, is about unwilling martyrs. The people they were, the symbols we turn them into, the monsters we are told they must have been.”

The short itself is haunting, both because of the way that its final moments bring you right back to square one with its presentation of the Candyman as a hook-handed specter with no qualms about murdering anyone who can’t keep his name out of their mouths, and because it presents the spirit as the embodiment of a much larger, more chilling generational trauma that manifests itself as an unstoppable rage.

Candyman hits theaters September 25.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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