Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (2021) is described as a “spiritual sequel” to Bernard Rose’s 1992 classic Candyman. The film indeed touches upon moments of the original, harking back to the 19th century story where an enslaved person was brutally killed for his relationship with a white woman.
However, in this telling of the legend we focus on artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and an important, murderous moment in the ‘70s, as the hooked-hand killer is brought from a painting canvas into terrifying true life.
Much like the original, Candyman (2021) 21) explores societal issues, shining a light on the gentrification of Chicago and the ongoing problem of abhorrent police brutality against people of colour. These issues are not new and, in the film’s famous repetition of “Candyman, Candyman, Candyman…” there is an important reminder that we must continue to shout about racial, class, religious and gender divides in our community. It’s just a shame that the film could not follow its own, underlying advice and doesn’t offer a unique, important take on the issues it is so clearly passionate about.
As we are told, “Candyman is the whole damn hive” and not just a singular person. His anger is representative of all those before and all those that follow; those who will be wrongly accused of crimes because of the colour of their skin. Despite being the villain of this gruesome tale, Candyman chooses his victims irrespective of their skin colour, their gender or their religious beliefs. It’s a simple reminder that we’re all the same, no matter what we look like or what we believe in. It’s easy: if you say his name 5 times in the mirror, you are dead meat.
Some of the deaths are grisly and bloody, a couple of kills had me wincing in pain like it was me being dragged along the floor, trailing blood, by a hooked hand only visible in the mirror. However, perhaps to keep its 15-rating, a lot of the kills are just off-screen, so don’t expect anything truly gruesome unless you suffer from Trypophobia (yuck) or hate a wound being picked at (double yuck).
Drawing inspiration from Leigh Whanell’s excellent interpretation of The Invisible Man, this Candyman is mostly unseen, hiding in the shadows or only shown when you’re looking in the mirror. It’ll have you thinking twice before checking your reflection and, honestly, I’ve not been able to mutter the 5 C words in the mirror yet.
As well as its exploration of ever relevant social issues and expected levels of gore, Candyman (2021) touches upon struggles with creativity and finding your vision in art. Played excellently by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who brings this tortured soul to life with empathy, light humour and pure guts, Anthony is bearing the pressure of artist’s block. He is constantly reminded that he pales in comparison to his partner, a strong-minded, smart and successful businesswoman. He’s told to put down the weights and pick up his paintbrush, but alas, doing so triggers a violent spree in the neighbourhood.
The good intentions in this reimagined Candyman (2021) can be felt and DaCosta’s sturdy, confident direction brings this slasher to life with a bang, but at 92 minutes I couldn’t help but feel the rush to get the story told. The trailer showcases the film’s most memorable moments, with very few surprises left for the feature itself. Weirdly enough, there were scenes that felt like filler, with unnecessary moments in a school thrown in for killing’s sake. We get a brief insight in to a young black girl’s struggle in high school; she dons a Black Lives Matter patch and hides in the toilet from her tormenting peers, but the scene does little to enhance the voices that this film should be elevating.
There is a lot to like in Candyman (2021), but Rose’s interpretation of the Clive Barker story reigns king for me. This one does a lot in an average way in very little time and is hindered by its constrained approaching to tackling its prominent issues. The eventual outcome and the film’s buzzing climax are unfortunately fairly predictable so when it lands it lands softly, unable to close its horror story in a way that will linger once the credits roll.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Runtime: 91 minutes