Review: Candyman (2021)

I said his name 5 times looking into the bathroom mirror before I sat down to write this, so maybe I make it through to finish it….maybe I don’t. Anywho…..Candyman! And yes he can be pretty spooky in this sequel (yeah, it’s a sequel), which I know was a concern going in. Could it live up to the original Candyman from 1992?? But how will this movie be any good without Tony Todd?? What about the bees?? THE BEES!! I’m here to happily report that director Nia DaCosta has created a gothic and striking film, that not only pays homage to the original movie…..but elevates it to a new level that could (and probably should) garner sequels in this new Candyman universe.

Let’s talk storyline: Anthony (Yahya AbdulMateen II) is an artist living in Chicago with his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) who is an art gallery director. While entertaining Brianna’s brother Nathan and his boyfriend one night, Nathan sets the spooky mood and tells the story of a woman named Helen Lyle……who fans know of course from the 1992 movie. Only in Nathan’s story, there really is no actual real life Candyman – only Helen going crazy and attempting to sacrifice a baby in bonfire.

Regardless, the story sparks Anthony’s creativity and he goes back to the scene of the Cabrini Green projects for more inspiration for his art. While there he meets Colman (William Burke), who tells him the real backstory of Candyman – and about his own encounter as a child with a man named Sherman Fields. Sherman had a hook for a hand, gave out candy to children…..and unfortunately for him, there was someone at the same time leaving razor blades in candy around the neighborhood (thus making Sherman a suspect). A young Colman screams during his encounter, the police arrive, and proceed to beat Sherman to death. Only problem is, more candy with razor blades kept showing up after Sherman’s death…..leading everyone to believe that Sherman was indeed innocent (other than being a creepy guy with a hook hand, living in the walls and giving candy to children of course).

After speaking with Colman, Anthony now knows what his next art project will be for the upcoming gallery show: A piece inspired by the legend of Candyman, complete with a mirror (his art hidden behind it once opened) and instructions to look into the mirror and say Candyman’s name 5 times. Let’s just say that the experiment kinda backfires, a few people die, and Anthony is left not just with newfound fame from his name being in the news because of his art piece…..but also with the notion that Candyman may indeed be real. Anthony should also really get that bee sting checked out that he got earlier in the movie, because it’s becoming quite infected.

Without spoiling much – after that, Candyman takes you on a pretty wild ride with Anthony not only struggling with who he is and who he is becoming – but also struggling in his relationship with Brianna. Is Candyman real? And if so, did Anthony have something to do with bringing him back? All will be answered in the last 30 minutes of the movie, and I can assure you that the last 10 minutes are satisfyingly shocking and delightful.

Ok, so – let’s talk about the good! As I mentioned earlier, director Nia DaCosta really nailed the atmosphere here. Impressive for it only being her second feature film, Candyman oozes style throughout the entire runtime. The camera angles and movements are top notch (that art gallery slaughter scene is a doozy), and her overall style helps the naysayers keep quiet as she makes the film her own without worrying about copying the 1992 movie. Also impressive was the acting, with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of course being the standout. As you watch his character Anthony deal with the changes that he’s feeling and enduring in his life, you feel it. I’m glad I didn’t have to feel him picking at that scabby bee sting though.

Also noteworthy, is the score by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. Following Phillip Glass’ classically haunting score from the original is a daunting task, but Lowe was up to the challenge. And we even get a little Phillip Glass thrown in there too, so all is right in the Candyman soundtrack world. Also right, is the carnage that we see on-screen. There’s something about a giant hook slicing open a body that makes me grimace. Some might complain that too many of the carnage is off-screen, but I beg to differ. Sometimes less is more, and in this case it rings true. Trust me though, you gorehounds still get enough of the red stuff to meet the quota.

Any downers with this new Candyman? A few. The screenplay (co-written by Jordan Peele) was a bit clunky at times, especially the 15 minutes that lead up to the fantastic finale. I couldn’t tell if the movie had been trimmed down, or if they just didn’t really know how to transition to that finale gracefully. But it went a bit off the rails. Not too much to deter me from liking it, but I feel with another 15 mins of movie time (the total runtime is about 90 mins), it definitely would have helped with the plot. Also, there were the typical ‘dumb choices’ made by some of the characters (how long you gonna let that bee sting go before you go to the doctor, Anthony?), but again – nothing too terrible that took away from the overall experience.

So yeah – Candyman did pretty much live up to my expectations, as it was already on the top of my anticipation list for 2021. Tighten up that script a little and we could have had a horror masterpiece, but as it is – Candyman is the bees knees (sorry). If you’re offended btw (not by that joke), from the social commentary in this movie regarding police brutality against black people – or if you feel that this subject is overblown at this point, I urge you to open your eyes. There’s a reason it’s depicted in this movie and there’s a reason that you unfortunately continue to see it happening in real life. And if you don’t want to wake up and open your eyes, I offer you the option to go to your bathroom mirror and say Candyman’s name 5 times.

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