By Brian Griffin
Candyman (2021) ⭐⭐⭐/ 5
Who can take a little-known horror and create a chilling sequel almost 30 years later?
Set in the modern-day, Candyman (2021) is the sequel to its beloved 90’s horror flick namesake. Can the new era of the Candyman live up to the legends before it, or will it just simply be an echo of the first?
Candyman (2021) follows a similar storyline to Candyman (1992), with a young person going to Caprini Green to investigate the origins of the legend that is Candyman, a serial killer with a hook for a hand that murders any person that says Candyman five times into a mirror. Up and coming artist Anthony (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), must find and stop Candyman before he too succumbs to a fate similar to many other poor souls during the movie.
The main cast is led by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony, who you might recognise as Manta from Aquaman (2017), and he really takes control of the role, especially in the contrast between an artist working his way up the ladder and the darker side of the role. The supporting cast is led by Anthony’s girlfriend Brianna, played by Teyonah Parris, who earlier in the year starred as Monica Rambeau in WandaVision. Filling out the rest of the cast is Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead).
Directed by up and coming director Nia DaCosta and with a writing staff that consists of DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, and top horror writer Jordan Peele(Get Out, Us), you would think it would be a match made in heaven. This is DaCosta’s second feature-length credit, with her next movie being a future addition to the MCU. The trio of writers really managed to credit down-to-earth characters, in a realistic world, so the horror element of the story was really amplified. Mixed with interesting animation that served in the place of most flashbacks, the whole movie managed to come together to create a very interesting style.
It is that animation that served to be one of the best elements of the overall movie too, especially since DaCosta’s 2020 short film, which, believe it or not, is also called Candyman, and this served as an interesting mix with the rest of the movie rather than being shoehorned in. On top of that, cinematography by John Guleserian (About Time) was used to add to the creepy unhinged element of the movie.
A big problem for sequels, especially those which come out 29 years after the original, is that it’s tough to include the original's cast and story into it, without it becoming a blatant ‘Remember that’ moment. The process of telling the original’s story as if it is an urban legend passed through many sets of ears and mouths, with some details missing and incorrect, was a great addition to the story. Some of the original cast even managed to make an appearance for a scene or two, in a way that seems organic and fair.
On top of the clever callbacks, there was a definite sense of realism, culminating in a character opening a door and seeing that it led to a dark basement, saying “Nope” and closing the door. There are however a few times where this realism is dropped, obviously just before people die, but that’s just horror. Also after a bee sting leaves a main character's arm infected, they don’t see a doctor, which is just a tad bit mad.
The story itself is a good continuation from the original, with Anthony being the character of the baby in the first, and now he is grown up. If you have seen Candyman(1992) you will know that this baby is essential to the plot, and it was inevitable that the Candyman would have to come back into his life at some stage. The big problem with the story this time around is that they may have focused too much on social issues, like the gentrification of poorer neighborhoods and also the problem of police brutality to tell a story of this urban legend come to life.
When compared to the original, Candyman(2021) just seems to fall behind. The original was an edge of your seat horror/thriller, where nobody is safe, and the majority of the main characters die. We even see the severed head of a dog in the original, with nothing like that even coming close in the 2021 version. It’s unknown whether it was written this way, or studio interference stopped a true vision. My greatest fear is that characters were kept alive to create a future series, rather than to make a really good movie.
Overall Candyman isn’t too bad, with solid animation, an interesting sense of realism and some solid performances, but it was let down by its want to become a movie that sent a resonating message, rather than just a spooky tale as the first was. It’s a good movie overall, but if you want to watch a movie called ‘Candyman’, I’d stick to the original.
Candyman is in cinemas now.