As horror icons get resurrected through modern folklore or as we like to call them; soft reboots, we find ourselves asking whether or not it’s necessary. In our current political climate, a new, updated retelling of ‘Candyman‘ makes absolute sense especially with new and exciting Black voices in the horror genre. With Nia DaCosta directing and Jordan Peele co-writing and producing, this new ‘Candyman‘ has a fresh new voice and it definitely has a lot to say. However, through its incredibly short runtime, the movie goes through so many ideas, it never affords the time to actually focus on one. Though its concepts are compelling, this new ‘Candyman‘ simply lacks the horror and plot focus leaving you with what is essentially an aimless sequel with no clear priority in its list of messages to get across.
minor spoilers for ‘Candyman‘ (2021) are featured in this review.
In terms of revamping the Candyman figure and the fear that followed, this sequel actually undermines the horror of the Candyman in severe ways. The original movie was genuinely terrifying and offputting at times and as sad as it is, this new movie never reaches the highs of its predecessor. The newfound interest in this character is driven by the slasher aspect and if that’s what people are looking for then disappointment is what will follow. While it does feature some very artistic kills, Nia DaCosta’s ‘Candyman‘ often feels too sophisticated to honour the slasher aspect of the original movie. In many ways, this feels like an origin story for Candyman himself, especially with the added lore and the revelation in the third act. Unfortunately, if you are a newer fan who has only been exposed to this new movie, it doesn’t serve enough of a satisfying experience. Without the viewing of 1992’s ‘Candyman‘, this sequel feels like a weirdly compelling thriller that will escape your mind by next week. When viewed as an actual sequel to the original, however, it ultimately feels like a bloated mess that doesn’t really get anything through effectively. It’s not scary, it’s not particularly well-written so what does this sequel have going for it? Besides being shot very well and having a clear, visual presence, the socially relevant themes it chooses to discuss (briefly) are actually very compelling.
While the original movie dealt with the racially charged gentrification of Cabrini-Green, this new story revolves a lot more around Black trauma, culture and artistry. The expansion of the Candyman lore by connecting him to the countless Black men killed by White supremacy in Cabrini-Green was as tragic an addition as it was clever. The execution and explanation for it in the third act was genuinely baffling but the concept is so strong that it overcomes it. The commentary on how White people take Black trauma and interact with it without hesitation or mindfulness was particularly well done. Apart from Burke, every person that died in this movie was a White person saying Candyman’s name as if it was a trendy challenge. They don’t understand the pain and history that comes along with that name. It is why I think Tony Todd’s version of the character urges Brianna to “tell everyone” at the end of the movie, to explain his history. There is a similar conversation earlier on in the movie with how White critics perceive Black art, specifically the type that talks about racism and how they dictate what makes it predictable. It’s genuinely compelling but they don’t really do anything with it. There is so much to say and not enough time or room to do so.
This feels like the type of movie to be compared to 2018’s ‘Halloween‘, another sequel/soft reboot that annoyingly has the same name as the original despite being the direct sequel. That being said, ‘Halloween‘ actually managed to replicate the fun and unique personality of the original movie whereas ‘Candyman‘ actually strips it down to essentially nothing worth remembering. It honestly left me feeling the same way M Night’s ‘Glass‘ did, only that movie was slightly more original and presented something bold even if forgettable. It is one of the most frustrating movies of the year simply because it had so much going for it. Yahya Abdul Mateen II is captivating as Anthony, the potential is very clear but the movie never justifies his obsession with the urban legend beyond the fact that he was abducted as a baby by him in the first movie. Its negligent exploration of obsession and insanity doesn’t leave much room for interpretation and mystery. It never plays into the psychological aspect the first movie nailed so effectively. Teyonah Parris truly does the most with what she is given, I hope they explore her character better in the clear sequel they heavily teased at the end. Actually, I hope every aspect of this movie gets explored with more care and focus.
Overall, Nia DaCosta’s ‘Candyman‘ lacks the scares and plot focus to really materialize into anything other than a frustrating waste of potential. While the cast is known for their incredible talent, every member is sadly underutilized. It tries too hard to separate itself from the original movie and it ends up hurting itself so much more because it never once replicates the uniqueness and true horror that the movie had to offer. The severe lack of thrills and scares would be understandable had the movie worked with structure and compelling concepts. However, that is not the case as every concept the movie explores is done so with a fraction of the focus rendering this new ‘Candyman‘ a visually compelling but ultimately aimless revamp.
‘Candyman‘ is now showing in theatres and available on-demand.