The Ending of the New 'Candyman' Brings Back a Familiar Face

Nia DaCosta's reboot ends with a nod to the 1992 original movie.

Candyman, candyman legend ribcage
Universal Pictures

This post contains spoilers for Candyman.

For as long as we've known there's been a new Candyman movie on the horizon, those who were familiar with Bernard Rose's 1992 original wondered: Would Tony Todd be back to reprise his role as the titular slasher, aka Daniel Robitaille? In the final moments of Nia DaCosta's sequel-slash-reboot, that question is answered. The last line of dialogue in the film belongs to a de-aged version of Todd, who emerges floating and surrounded by bees.

"Tell everyone," he says to Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), a gallerist who has just watched as her boyfriend, Anthony McCoy (Yayha Abdul-Mateen II), was murdered by police officers before being fully transformed into an incarnation of Candyman and enacting immediate vengeance.

But despite the mic drop appearance of Todd, the ending of DaCosta's Candyman is a muddled and rushed climax for a concept with a lot of potential. Despite questions of how this Candyman would connect to the original, itself an adaptation of Clive Barker's short story "The Forbidden," this new installment is essentially a direct sequel to what came before. About midway through the movie, it's confirmed that Abdul-Mateen's character, an artist who finds inspiration in the Candyman legend, is the baby who Todd's Candyman abducted in 1992. At the end of that film, Anthony is saved by Helen Lyle (Virgina Madsen), the grad student who starts investigating the Candyman myth for her thesis and gets sucked into its orbit. She saves the baby and sacrifices herself, letting a bonfire consume her.

Turns out Anthony's mother, Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams), other than Todd the only actor who makes a return appearance in the new film, hid this part of his childhood from him. When Candyman is brought back into his life by Brianna's brother (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), who relays Lyle's fate over wine one night, it not only gives Anthony the inspiration he needs for his next project, it also allows the ghost an opportunity to take what he had originally stolen.

candyman 2021, yayha abdul-mateen ii with paintings
Universal Pictures

But DaCosta, who wrote the screenplay with executive producer Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, leaves a number of threads hanging as the movie barrels toward its conclusion. Hanging on the fringes of the narrative is William Burke (Colman Domingo), a man from Cabrini-Green who had an encounter with Candyman in his youth. The Candyman that Burke comes across is not Daniel Robitaille, but another man who suffered a similar fate. Whereas Robitaille was executed and tortured by a mob after falling in love with a white woman, the Candyman of Burke's childhood was a man named Sherman Fields, who was beaten to death by police officers after being wrongly accused of handing out candy with razor blades in the center.

In one of their earlier meetings, Burke explains to Anthony that Candyman is not just one figure, but part of a legacy of men who were brutalized and outcast by a racist society. The unexpected—and, frankly, confusing turn—comes when we learn that Burke essentially recruited Anthony with the intention of turning him into Candyman to enact vengeance on the gentrifiers who moved into Cabrini-Green. "We need Candyman, because this time he'll be killing their fathers, their babies, their sisters," he says before chopping off Anthony's arm and putting Candyman's identifiable shearling coat on him. Brianna murders Burke and cradles Anthony as the cops shoot him, just like Burke intended.

Burke's story bookends this Candyman, but still feels underdeveloped. In a quick flashback, it's revealed that Candyman murdered his sister, who said his name five times. But beyond that, he is purely a vessel for exposition until he's not. Similarly, Brianna becomes the film's Final Girl, but she herself is thinly constructed. Again in a brief interlude, DaCosta reveals that her father was an artist who killed himself, so Anthony's descent into mania is familiar to her. And yet both of those threads are woefully unexplored, making the last moments more puzzling than satisfying. By the time Todd shows up, the thrill is gone.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.