Candyman Review – A Relevant Continuation Of A Horror Classic

Candyman

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

In the horror genre, we have some classic figures that will always keep fans’ attention. You have your Michael Myers, Freddys, Chucky’s that return time and time again with more modern takes on what you can say is essentially the same blueprint. But they are beloved by fans nevertheless. In 2017 an unlikely filmmaker that most of us knew for his comedy entered the world of horror and changed it, Jordan Peele. His films like Get Out and Us showed us that what is most terrifying is not a horrific urban legend but could just be the real-life society we live in. So how would he handle an established urban legend?

Candyman first haunted theaters back in 1992. It was written and directed by Bernard Rose. It starred Tony Todd as the haunting figure along with Virginia Madsen. Now in 2021, it will return to theaters under the direction of Nia DaCosta. She also co-wrote the script along with Peele and Win Rosenfeld. What is said to be a “spiritual sequel” feels more like a traditional sequel. As it takes the events from the original film as its foundation.

The Story

In Candyman, we find that Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood is long gone. It had been torn down and replaced with luxury loft condos. The entire area has been gentrified beyond recognition. Here is where we meet Anthony McCoy, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and his partner Brianna Cartwright, played by Teyonah Parris. Anthony is a struggling artist that is lacking any real inspiration.

When he hears about the urban legend of Candyman, Anthony investigates the story and goes on a journey to find the truth behind the legend. During which time he meets longtime resident, William Burke, played by Colman Domingo.  William tells him some of the history of Candyman that was the story of the original 1992 film. This included the bonfire incident that Helen and the missing baby boy were involved with.

 

ALSO SEE: CANDYMAN: ‘A LOOK INSIDE’ CLIP FEATURING JORDAN PEELE AND NIA DACOSTA

His research leads to an artwork display he called Say My Name. Which consisted of a bathroom mirror that opened up to reveal uncomfortable imagery inside. Unfortunately, his piece is not well received at a show. But it does lead some to say the name Candyman, five times into a reflective surface. Which, according to the lore, would summon the spirit. When the body count starts mounting, Anthony obsessively dives into a whole series of paintings based on Candyman. This drives Brianna away while at the same time inviting in the physical manifestation of the urban legend.

I don’t want to go further into the plot as it’s something that I think everyone needs to enjoy on their own. I thought that this film did a great job at taking a variety of controversial topics and fitting them well within the narrative. There is close attention to topics including race, police brutality, and gentrification. But at the end of the day they questioned who is Candyman, and why was he there? Through the great storytelling, we are used to from Peele and the direction from DaCosta we get a clear artistic answer.

Thoughts

Abdul-Mateen II does a great job at raising his intensity as the film progresses. What starts off as a search for inspiration, ends up as a journey of discovery that could cost him his life. I think that as far as a storyteller is concerned, Domingo was a great choice as his voice really brings the Candyman story to life. Parris’ Brianna serves well as almost an outsider looking into the horrific mystery that is unfolding in front of her eyes.

While I really enjoyed the storytelling in the film, for me it lost a little bit of its luster as it’s what I was fully expecting from a Peele film. There wasn’t anything special that really separates it from its 1992 predecessor. I thought the presentation of Candyman was very clever. He was only visible in reflective surfaces, making some of those gruesome scenes very interesting. With many viewers distracted with looking for him in certain scenes, I think a few more jump scares would have been fun.

Candyman, in silhouette, in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Overall I still believe this is a solid film. It’s in line with what we have come to expect from a Peele horror film. The ideas were well developed and there is a lot here for fans of the original film to enjoy. Although not necessary, it might be a good idea to check out the 1992 film. For a clear foundation of the events taking place. Nevertheless, this 2021 version of Candyman has been elevated to fit the social commentary of our time.

Overall Grade: B

Universal Pictures’ Candyman haunts theaters on August 27th, 2021.

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Emmanuel Gomez

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