Dare to say his name.
Candyman is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Nia DaCosta, written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Monkeypaw Productions, and Bron Creative, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based on Clive Barker's 1985 short story, The Forbidden. It stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the fourth film in the Candyman series. It was preceded by Candyman: Day of the Dead, but really acts as a direct sequel to the original Candyman.
"I am the writing on the wall." -The Candyman
Anthony McCoy, a black artist, moves to Cabrini-Green with his girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright. As Anthony searches for a connection for his next piece, he slowly learns about the urban legend of Candyman. When he unknowingly summons the vengeful ghost, murders begin to happen. Anthony's mental state collapses as he learns that he is much closer to the Candyman than he realizes.
The best thing about Candyman is easily director Nia DaCosta's work with the material. Since Candyman's gimmick has to do with mirrors and reflections, DaCosta uses that to her advantage. She visualizes this story in such a unique and ominous way. Shots are framed so that you can see the Candyman lurking in a mirror in the background. You are never quite comfortable because of the way that DaCosta works with the camera, and I really liked that.
The performances here are also great. Most notably Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. The mental breakdown that Anthony suffers is terrifying, and Abdul-Mateen II just nails the portrayal of this extremely disturbing situation. His slow descent into utter madness is somewhat similar to Jack Torrance in The Shining, and I think, in a way, his performance resembles Jack Nicholson's in that film.
I also love the way that it ties back to the original film while also setting up a possible new direction for the Candyman franchise. It recaps the first Candyman with that insanely cool shadow puppetry thing and gives you all the information you need to know, which was very kind of the filmmakers, because not everyone has seen the original Candyman. The way that this Candyman ends, however, sets up a potential future for the series that I hope happens.
The film also deepens the mythology and lore of Candyman. I was always fascinated by the character himself, and this builds on the foundation of the original film. It expands Candyman's character without giving him much screen time, and I think it was cool the way that they were able to do that.
Along those same lines, the film manages to make a brutal, evil horror movie killer almost like an anti-hero. Candyman has always been a more sympathetic character because of the nature of his backstory, but this film frames him as kind of a protagonist. Even though what he is doing is clearly bad, his motivations are understandable. And his final line of the film, which also happens to be the final line of the film, makes him seem like more of a good guy than a bad guy.
Finally, Candyman is able to be a different kind of horror movie. It's very different than what I expected. And whenever something changes up my expectations, it deserves praise. There were some decisions that I was not a huge fan of, but there were also some decisions that I respected and understood where the filmmakers are coming from. It doesn't stick to the normal slasher or supernatural horror template. It creates its own rules and its own identity in doing so, which is a really impressive thing for a film today to be able to do.
Sadly, there are a lot of problems with this movie.
First off, I was a little bit disappointed by what they did with Candyman himself. In the original movie, Candyman is one of two main characters. Tony Todd plays him in one of the most memorable performances in a horror movie ever. In this movie, he's much more of a presence than an actual character. He is talked about a lot and given a lot of backstory, but doesn't have that much screen time. When he does, it's really either for two reasons: to creep Anthony out or to kill someone. He doesn't really talk until the end of the film. I understand why this decision was made, but I can't say I was fully on board with what they did with this specific Candyman.
Also, the trailers and marketing for this film gave away way, way, way, way, way too much. From the first trailer, you could tell what was going to happen with Anthony's character. Then they released the posters. And it gives stuff away. Almost every single kill in this film is shown in one of the trailers. And almost every single scene where Candyman actually appears is shown in the trailers, too. It took away from the experience of the film when I knew what was going to happen in a certain scene, because the trailer had showed it. That's really, really frustrating.
I also don't know what's up with Burke, the laundry shop owner. In the first two thirds of the film, he's used mostly to give backstory and stuff. He plays a big part in the third act, but what he does doesn't quite make sense. Also, Colman Domingo, the actor, completely switches gears on his performance in the third act. It was quite a shock, and not in a good way.
The film also needs to have at least fifteen more minutes. The third act is really rushed, moving from plot point to plot point to plot point. It has to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfying way, but it's so rushed and done so fast that the final answers and resolutions we get are not as good as they could've been.
And the social commentary...man, it's up front. It's great when a movie has something to say, but social commentary should be done subtly, through storytelling. There are times where important social issues are tackled, but they make no sense inside of the story of this film. Both Get Out and Us convey their messages about race through the story, while Candyman just kind of forces it in and shoves it in your face.
Finally, the movie isn't really that scary. Creepy? Yes. Foreboding? Yes. Scary? Not really. I find the first Candyman to be one of the absolute scariest movies ever made. This Candyman is nowhere near that level. Now, mind you, I think that the first Candyman can be a bit too scary at times, but I thought a modern take on the material might still be scary but also get rid of the griminess that makes the first one pure nightmare fuel. But no. Since this film is missing its titular character for a lot of the scenes, it isn't that scary.
Analogy and Final Score
The Candyman film series is a football team. This Candyman movie is one of their plays. It's their key play that should score a touchdown. Normally, the quarterback, who, in this case is the Candyman, would run the ball to the outside while Gore, Creepiness, and Disturbing Images blocks for him. But for some reason, on this specific play, the quarterback pitches the ball backwards to the running back...Social Commentary. The defensive team was able to see this and prevented them from scoring a touchdown. They still got a first down, but not a touchdown.
Quick disclaimer: I know I was seemingly more negative than positive on this movie, but that's because my expectations were incredibly high. Jordan Peele is one of my favorite writer/directors in Hollywood, and his involvement in a Candyman movie got me excited. The trailers looked great and the film opened to a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, it's lowered to an 85%. This is still a good movie that you should check out.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 12+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by Nia DaCosta
Rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing themes and images, sexual references, language
Released on August 27, 2021
1 hour and 31 minutes
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William Burke
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy Cartwright
Michael Hargrove as Sherman Fields
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Brian King as Clive Privler
Tony Todd as Daniel Robitaille/Candyman