To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Candyman (2021) is a supernatural slasher film directed by Nia DaCosta from a script written by DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, and Jordan Peele based on the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker. It is a direct sequel to Candyman (1992) taking place after the events of Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and a year before the events of Candyman: Day of the Dead. The film stars newcomers Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo, along with Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, and Vanessa Estelle Williams reprising their roles from the first film. The story follows Anthony McCoy an artist who has recently moved into the now gentrified Cabrini-Green neighborhood with his girlfriend Brianna. While out looking for inspiration, Anthony meets a Cabrini-Green laundromat owner named William who tells him about the Candyman legend.
Candyman (1992) holds a dear place in the hearts of a lot of Black people because even though this is a film and is entirely made up there are many Black people to this day who will not say his name five times in a mirror. The original film is that scary and Tony Todd gave such a horrifyingly excellent performance that a new film was all but certain to not live up to the hype. I will say for most of the film Nia DaCosta does a good job at updating the material for a modern audience. A lot of the jokes in the film work. Pretty much every person of color in the film refuses and does not put up with anyone willing to say Candyman’s name five times. There is a hilarious scene where a group of girls is about to summon him in the bathroom and the Asian girl in the group immediately leaves not being able to finish. The film truly embraces how Black people view urban legend and the macabre. If there is a dark scary basement, we are not walking down it. For the Director to bring that truth into the film makes it feel more real and the characters relatable. Surprisingly, the film does not break continuity with any of the other Candyman sequels. This is mostly accomplished by totally ignoring the events in those films because, in reality, each film is a standalone story with Candyman being the main connection.
There’s something that has always been very creepy about reflections and seeing things in mirrors at aren’t there. The film opens with reflections of the sky rises of the now gentrified neighborhood which are featured throughout. DaCosta does a great job at framing many scenes around reflections and glass in which that’s the only way you see the Candyman. Many of the kills are also shown via mirrors or through the glass. It’s eerie when we see the killer but even more horrifying when Candyman isn’t seen. Not knowing if something is really there is a keystone in American horror. Upon a rewatch you may notice things in reflections that you did not see during your initial viewing. This does compound upon the lore that a reflective surface is necessary to summon him. There is an element of body horror in the film, as well as our main character suffers a bee sting early on that slowly rots away his hand and then his arm eventually covering his entire right side. He picks at his decaying flesh unsure of what is happening to him. At one point he does get this checked out, but it’s a little off-putting that he doesn’t do so earlier in the film.
One aspect of the film that feels ignored is how in today’s technology-ridden world can a supernatural force can commit these murders without being seen or without someone realizing that it was a supernatural being that did it. The trick to keeping Candyman alive is that everyone believes the urban legend is real and continues to talk about him. Seeing someone murdered by an invisible force on camera is real enough for them to believe he exists. He does not need to perpetuate his legend through stories from person to person anymore. Another strange aspect involves the story. Some of the writing feels uneven as if this is originally intended to be a complete reboot. This is evident with the Sherman Fields version of Candyman who is introduced as a new variation of the titular character. Sherman was wrongfully murdered by the police in the 70s yet his story is not mentioned in the original film which took place in the 90s. He is the main Candyman shown throughout the film until Daniel Robitaille appears at the end. How and if they are connected isn’t thoroughly explained.
While I don’t expect horror films to completely follow the logic they set up, this film throws it away completely by the end. The Candyman usually attacks people who say his name five times in a mirror. While this holds true for most of the film there are instances in which people are killed who did not summon him but are in the vicinity of those who summoned him. Also, you can summon Candyman to kill other people. The pacing of the film starts great, creeping along at a slow stride as we get to know these characters in this world that was once haunted by this horrifying figure. Once we get to the end at the end of the film there is a mad dash to a convoluted conclusion. We get to a point where a character that we’ve come to know is all of a sudden evil with a connection to Candyman that doesn’t make any sense. This film is the shortest in the Candyman franchise. The story could’ve taken more time to flesh out this a little more so the viewer can understand the character’s motivations in trying to bring Candyman back to the forefront without the film feeling overly long. Sadly, this film sincerely fails in its ending. There’s a heavy-handed message of police brutality and social justice that comes out of nowhere that it takes away from what could’ve been an enjoyable horrifying conclusion.
Distant equals always hard to do because the original films hold so much value in people’s memories, that trying to make them work today doesn’t always end well. With Nia DaCosta being a talented up-and-coming director and Jordan Peele producing, this film seems to be doing everything right. Unfortunately, that is not the case as this film doesn’t know what it wants to be. While much of the film works, it culminates in a rushed “woke” ending that may have been received better in a 2020 climate. I give Candyman (2021) a Solid 5/10. I think it’s time that this franchise is laid to rest and the studio invests its time creating a brand-new horror IP.