Nostalgia for the ‘90s is big right now, so it’s probably not a huge surprise Candyman is coming back. The love-lorn killer with the haunting bass voice and hook hand never had quite the box office cred of a Freddy, Jason, or Michael Myers, but Tony Todd’s performance—and his signature vocal rasp—made him an instant icon in an a trench coat.
The 1992 original did inspire two sequels (one pretty good, one… not so much), and remains a clever, smart, and thoughtful slasher movie with all the requisite guts and gore, but also a sympathetic killer with a pretty good motive for revenge. More importantly, the film helped to remind studios that there does indeed exist an audience for horror movies with Black leads.
All it lacked, perhaps, was perspective. The movie’s main protagonist (other than Mr. Robitaille himself) was still a white woman (Virginia Madsen), as were most of the faces working on the film behind the scenes. The new update/sequel/reboot is helmed by a brilliant Black director, Nia DaCosta, who co-wrote the film with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. There’s no longer a need to lure audiences into a Black story by focusing on a white lead as a guide. (Maybe there never was, or would’ve been, if Hollywood was paying attention.)
It feels like we’ve finally put to bed the belief that non-POC audiences won’t show up for Black-led scary movies, and while Jordan Peele has a lot to do with that, he was by no means a pioneer in the space. The history of major horror movies with Black folx in front of and behind the camera has its peaks and valleys, but they’ve always been there.
These are some of the best and most significant Black-led horror films. Roughly half of them showcase Black artists in front of and behind the camera, while the others have Black actors at the forefront. Also, this is just a sampling—there are plenty of Black film experts and horror lovers out there who can provide even better recommendations. Listen to them.