There is a lot of nostalgia for the 90s right now, so it’s probably no great surprise that Candyman is coming back. The love-hungry killer with the haunted bass voice and hooked hand never had a box office reputation of Freddy, Jason, or Michael Myers, but Tony Todd’s accomplishment – and his signature vocal rasp – immediately made him an icon in a trench coat.
The 1992 original inspired two sequels (one pretty good, one … not so much) and remains a clever, shrewd and thoughtful slasher film with all the guts and blood it takes, but also a personable killer with a pretty good motive for revenge. More importantly, the film helped remind the studios that there is indeed an audience for horror films with black leading characters.
Perhaps the only thing missing was perspective. The film’s main character (other than Mr. Robitaille himself) was still a white woman (Virginia Madsen), as were most of the faces who worked behind the scenes on the film. The new update / sequel / restart is being led by the brilliant black director Nia DaCosta who co-wrote the film with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. There is no longer any need to lure the audience into a black story by focusing on a white lead as a guide. (Maybe there was or never would have been if Hollywood had been paying attention.)
It feels like we’ve finally buried the belief that non-POC audiences won’t show up for black-run horror films, and while Jordan Peele has a lot to do with it, he was by no means a pioneer in the place. The history of the great horror films with Black Folx in front and behind the camera has its ups and downs, but they have always been there.
These are some of the best, and most significant, black-directed horror films. About half of them feature black artists in front of and behind the camera, while the others have black actors in the foreground. Plus, this is just a selection – there are plenty of black film experts and horror aficionados out there who can give even better recommendations. Listen to them.