‘Candyman’ director Nia DaCosta makes history as horror film dominates box office

 ‘Candyman’ director Nia DaCosta makes history as horror film dominates box office

A woman with braided hair smiling in a gold dress

Director Nia DaCosta attends the 2019 premiere of “Little Woods” in Los Angeles. (Rachel Murray / Getty Images)

Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” summoned more than $22.3 million at the North American box office this past weekend, cementing the horror flick in cinematic history as the first film directed by a Black woman to open at No. 1 in the United States.

Directed by DaCosta and produced by Oscar winner Jordan Peele, the acclaimed slasher stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as an artist who becomes obsessed with the myth of Candyman, who — legend has it — will appear before and wreak murderous havoc upon anyone who dares to say his name five times in the mirror.

The project, which opened in theaters last Friday, operates as a sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name, which starred Virginia Madsen as a grad student who accidentally awakens Candyman while researching the spooky folk tale.

“While the original centered a white woman in a story of the horrors of the African American experience. … Here, a Black man occupies the space of both the villain and the victim, sliding between persecuted and monstrous identities — horror tropes as social commentary,” film critic Katie Walsh wrote in a review for the Los Angeles Times.

“Within this world, DaCosta weaves a tale of a mythical monster that is a product of racist violence, including police brutality. There’s power in a name, as seen in the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. As ‘Candyman’ reminds us, say his name and incur the consequences, or, invoke his protection.”

Co-written by DaCosta, Peele and Win Rosenfeld, “Candyman” marks DaCosta’s second big-screen effort after making her feature filmmaking debut in 2018 with “Little Woods,” a modern western drama starring Lily James and Tessa Thompson. 

Up next, she’ll become the first Black woman to direct a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the sequel to 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” before helming a film adaptation of “The Lincoln Conspiracy,” by bestselling authors Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch.

The forthcoming followup to “Captain Marvel” will reunite DaCosta with actor Teyonah Parris, who stars in “Candyman” and made her Marvel debut this year as Monica Rambeau in the hit Disney series “WandaVision.”

“Candyman,” which was expected to gross an additional $5.23 million in 5`1 international markets, was followed in weekend box office results by “Free Guy,” “PAW Patrol” and “Jungle Cruise.”

“Because this movie is about racial violence and specifically police violence against Black people, I knew that was something I didn’t want to show because we see so much of it,” DaCosta told The Times earlier this month.

“One of the most important things about Candyman is [that] he illustrates how we use stories to process trauma. … And also how to try to transmute trauma into something useful, whether it’s for a movement or to enact the law. I think Candyman is about how we all use stories in different ways to our own ends and how that can also sometimes take away from the humanity of the person whose life was lost.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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