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This is where it all began, the story of Candyman. Local character, he'd walk around handing out candy to the neighborhood kids. One day, a couple of kids get razor blades in their candy. The police come around. That's when I saw the true face of fear. They beat him, tortured him, killed him, right there on the spot. A couple weeks later, more razor blades and more candy. He'd been innocent.
~ William telling the story of Candyman to Anthony.
William Burke is the main antagonist of the 2021 supernatural horror slasher film Candyman. He is a Cabrini Green resident who knows about the notorious legendary killer called Candyman.
Years ago, William had a chance encounter with Sherman Fields, a hook-handed man who would hand candy out to the neighborhood children. However, this all changed when a young white girl was given a piece of candy with a razor blade inside of it. William's screams alerted the police and he watched them brutalize Sherman to death. His sister was later slaughtered by the Candyman's spirit when she summoned him. This inspired William to use the Candyman as a symbol of vengeance instead of black people's pain and generational trauma.
Becoming a launderette, William takes notice of Anthony and tells him the story of the Candyman through Sherman Fields, explaining how the Candyman is "the whole damn hive" as in the Candyman was a metaphor for Black suffering. After Anthony gets stung by a bee during his trip to Cabrini-Green, he is slowly transformed into the Candyman.
When Anthony's girlfriend Brianna Cartwright grew concerned for him, she gets kidnapped by William and taken to an abandoned church. He then calls the police, aiming for them to shoot Anthony to death and Candyman would be reborn as a new iteration. He also captures Anthony and cuts his right hand off and replaces it with a hook. Unfortunately for him, Brianna gets the upper hand and stabs him to death. However, the police are compelled to shoot Anthony anyway. As she was being placed in a police SUV, she is threatened by the cops into saying that they were provoked to shoot Anthony.
Instead, she summons Anthony, and he arrives and slaughters the corrupt cops and fully becomes the Candyman. And thus, William's plan succeeds posthumously.
Burke is a vengeful man who is determined to summon the Candyman in order to put an end to racism. He's also quite manipulative, as he told Anthony about the Candyman legend intending to make him the new Candyman, and even orchestrated the events of the film to make that happen.
Helen Lyle was out here looking for Candyman. You ask me, I'd say she found him.
~ William speaking of Helen Lyle's investigation of Candyman.
Candyman ain't a He. Candyman's the whole damn hive. If you're out here looking for Candyman, you ask me, stay away!
~ William to Anthony.
Candyman is how we deal with the fact that these things happened! That they're still happening!
~ William using the Candyman as a metaphor for anti-racism.
Even though the Candyman is the primary threat (as is tradition), Burke is the main villain because he manipulated Anthony into resurrecting Candyman and also planned to make him a new incarnation. The fact that he is a simple launderette arguably makes him that much more of a threat, in keeping with the axiom that appearances can be deceiving.