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The Ending Of Candyman Explained

Nia DaCosta's reimagining of 1992's "Candyman" is a faithful modernization of the cult horror classic. Co-written with Jordan Peele, the film is a loving tribute to the original Bernard Rose movie. But "Candyman" ends up being more than just a follow-up: It's a retelling, a franchise reboot, a cultural commentary, and a sequel all wrapped up in one tight, 90-minute package.

Horror icon Tony Todd returns to reprise his role as the bee-infested, hook-handed Candyman. Todd remained the only constant through the '90s sequels, but this chapter connects a lot more directly back to the original — especially in its ending. The final 15 minutes of "Candyman" should resonate symbolically with a contemporary audience, but the movie may also leave fans who've never seen the original scratching their heads a bit. Don't worry, we've got everything you need to fully understand both the big picture and the little nuances of the "Candyman" conclusion.

Spoilers for both the 1992 and 2021 "Candyman" movies to follow. No spoilers from the 1990s sequels. Let's just forget those exist. 

Say his name ...

As the urban legend of Candyman goes, if you say his name five times in a mirror, he will appear ... to kill you. In 1992, this seemingly silly legend set the stage for a complex film about race and policing in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood in Chicago. Years later (in real life and in the "Candyman" universe), the housing project has been demolished and replaced by luxury condos.

This is how 2021's "Candyman" begins: as a movie about gentrification. Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Brianna (Teyonah Parris) are a Black couple who move into a newly rehabilitated building. Anthony is a painter in an artistic rut — until he finds inspiration in the legend of Candyman. He learns about the community folklore from William Burke (Colman Domingo), a local who was a child during the events of the original film. Burke tells Anthony the story of police murdering a Black resident whom they believed to be giving candy with razor blades inside to local children.

As Anthony starts to create art inspired by the legend of Candyman and the history of racial violence at Cabrini-Green, prominent figures in the Chicago art world begin getting brutally murdered. The tension ratchets up after a seemingly innocuous bee sting leads Anthony's hand to start decomposing into a burnt, fleshy monstrosity. He grows increasingly reclusive, and distance gathers between him and Brianna.

Slowly, Anthony begins to see his reflection for what it really is, realizes that he is becoming the Candyman. This is where a lot starts to happen fast, so let's take it one topic at a time and work toward the final shot.

How is Anthony the Candyman?

At one point in the final act, Anthony visits his mother. In another smart casting decision, the movie brings back Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie, creating a greater sense of continuity with the original. As Burke explains earlier in the film, during the events of the original movie a woman's child was kidnapped by the Candyman and rescued by Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who lost her life in the process. Any fan of the 1992 cult classic will recognize Williams as that child's mother: The child, then, was Anthony himself.

Anne-Marie then explains to Anthony that when he returned she knew — somehow — that he was destined to be the next Candyman. In an attempt to have him grow up normally, she sheltered him from all mentions of the legend. But it was all for nothing: His transformation begins immediately after he attempts to summon the murderous figure for the first time.

It's not explained extremely well, but it seems that saying the phrase five times in the mirror acts not just as a way for the average person to summon Candyman, but as an activation for Anthony to become him. Whatever happened when he was kidnapped passed on the Candyman gene — though that's technically not how the lore works. In the past, a violent killing of a Black man would often lead to a slew of Candyman murders. In Anne-Marie's explanation, it's unclear if there are therefore multiple Candymen with separate origins, or if they all fuse into one supernatural entity. This will be explored later in the ending.

Why did Burke kidnap Anthony?

William Burke is the most mysterious character in "Candyman," and even after watching it once, it can be hard to determine his motivations. So let's back up quickly and recap Burke's importance in the movie. This will make it a lot easier to understand the confusing final act.

Prior to the climax, the last we see of Anthony is him returning to the abandoned neighborhood where he first discovered the art depicting Candyman. When Brianna goes to the laundromat to ask Burke where he might be, she is knocked unconscious and brought to an empty church where she finds Anthony's body nearly succumbed to rot. Brianna escapes Burke's nightmare church to a house that looks eerily familiar: Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize it from earlier in the film as the first place Anthony sees any mention of Candyman.

Burke's history, which is inextricably linked to Anthony's discovery of and evolution into Candyman, is explained through flashbacks that occur sporadically. As a kid, he watched Sherman Fields, a local man who had a hook for a hand, as he was murdered by police. He later saw Fields come back as Candyman, and this flashback confirms Burke's genuine belief in the legend. Burke also knew that Anthony was the baby Candyman had kidnapped, and he waited patiently for decades to help him complete his transformation.

Why did Brianna summon Candyman in the police car?

In the final moments of the film, several white police officers invade the house and arrest Brianna after she stabs and kills Burke. Anthony's corpse lies next to his as Brianna is forcefully escorted to the back of a cop car. She is threatened by the cop in the driver's seat and promises to tell him everything if he can grant her one strange request: She wants to see herself in the mirror.

Brianna then summons Candyman, which seems like an insane decision. But if we follow the logic that Anthony is the new Candyman, and assume Brianna has as well, it helps explain why she calls upon a murderous ghost in a moment of crisis: She's actually summoning her boyfriend, Anthony, for help. But there is also one clear thematic reason behind her choice.

In the evolving "Candyman" universe, the symbolic figure is a vengeful answer to white violence and a protector of the Black community. The framing of the legend as the hero, instead of the monster, adds a powerful layer of commentary to the final scene of Anthony, as Candyman, brutally executing a group of white cops.

The final shot is more significant than you might think

The abrupt and cryptic ending to "Candyman" comes with a final twist that might shed light on how the myth works. During his final rampage, we see Anthony finally embracing his role as Candyman. As his face becomes slowly engulfed by bees, Anthony kills the final police officer. The bees start to dissipate as he walks toward Brianna, revealing that Anthony has been absorbed and consumed by Candyman. The final shot of the movie is of actor Tony Todd's face (which has replaced Anthony's) as he growls, "Tell everyone." 

The final line is a confident mission statement, one that is more meta-textual than anything. "Candyman" is back and (possibly) here to stay. But this scene also marks the fulfillment of Anthony's destiny to be one with Candyman. As he's consumed by the bees he becomes, like Sherman Fields and every other Candyman before him, more than just a man. He becomes part of the symbol that is Candyman, represented by Daniel Robitaille (Todd) — the original Candyman who, lore says, arose in the 1800s. 

The final shot of Todd is a great homage to the original, but is it a final homage? It leaves us wondering where the franchise can go from here, and whether that emphatic but cryptic proclamation at the very end is Todd passing the torch or saying he is here to stay for another trilogy.

Will there be a Candyman 2?

Not to crush your hopes for a "Candyman" cinematic universe, but there are no current plans for a sequel to the 2021 film. However, let us do some close reading and figure out what could be next. There is a pretty compelling case to be made that the ending of "Candyman" reads an awful lot like the setup for another movie.

As previously explained, the abruptness of the ending shot plays much better as a teaser for a sequel than a wrap on the events of this movie. And looking at the whole film symbolically, things begin to click into place. It acts as a passing of the torch from Robitaille to Anthony, from Tony Todd to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Todd is in his 60s now, so it makes sense to use this movie as a ceremonial transfer of the Candyman title.

Hopefully, this means we get a sequel to this new "Candyman" with Adbul-Mateen wielding that hook to bloody effect. Of course, it's always a treat to see Tony Todd as the titular horror (even in those terrible '90s sequels), but if "Candyman" wants to thrive as a franchise, it may be time to let go of the past and pivot to a new Candyman — and the 2021 film makes that an easy shift.