Directed by Nia DaCosta
Written by Jordan Peel, Win Rosenfeld and Nia DaCosta
A sequel to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.
30 years after Tony Todd terrorised us in 1992’s Candyman, Nia Dacosta takes us back to the now gentrified Cabrini Green as artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner Brianna (Teyonah Parris) move into a swanky new loft apartment that sits in stark contrast to the ghettos of the past. It’s almost as if someone wanted to wipe the slate clean and erase The Green’s past; as if there was something (or someone) they wanted to forget about…
Some mild spoilers to follow
In search of inspiration, Anthony is drawn into the history and legend of the Candyman; the hook-handed devil who has haunted the people of Cabrini Green for years. Joking with his partner, Anthony makes the biggest mistake of his life when he recites ‘Candyman’ five times at his reflection in an apartment window.
Unwittingly, Anthony becomes a conduit for the Candyman to regain a foothold in world that has largely forgotten him and where few people still fear him. The reset on Cabrini Green by the developers has not only painted over its cultural past, but also erased memories of Candyman and he wants back in.
While that foothold becomes stronger, so Anthony’s grip on reality becomes weaker as the veil between what is Anthony and what is the Candyman becomes harder to define.
I went in to Candyman knowing as little about it as possible as I was looking forward to seeing this one a lot. The 1992 film is a stone cold Horror Classic and I rewatched it recently in anticipation for the 2021 version. Even as I started to watch the new film, I wasn’t 100% sure how it related to the original but, with the inclusion of a couple of key names from the first film in the credits, I began to get excited.
I still wasn’t quite sure how this was going to play out until it did, but the film has come up with a fantastic way to link the two stories together. Nia DaCosta has given us both a story that stands up on its on merits and one that can be watched with no real prior knowledge of the 1992 film. It is a movie that builds on the past, reaffirms the Candyman in cinema legend, and opens the door for more hook-handed terror.
I should also probably confess at this point that I have not seen the 1992 Candyman sequels. I am not sure if they have any direct relation to the 2021 film, but I certainly didn’t feel that I was missing anything by not having watched them.
I have many reviews criticising Candyman for not being scary, or for the protagonist not being “weak” enough to generate fear for. I suspect much of this comes from viewers who have seen so many scary movies, that it is difficult to scare them anymore. Having said that, I agree that Candyman is not a particularly scary film in the traditional sense. However, both films are really about the black experience in America and the brutality and marginalisation faced by those communities, whether that is in the Ghetto of the late 20th Century or behind the gentrified mask of the early 21st Century. For the protagonist to be a fit, young male actually makes things a little more disturbing in my eyes as, traditionally, we wouldn’t expect to see such a strong character become so powerless. When considering the origins of the Candyman’s Daniel Robitaille, the corruption of Anthony takes on a deeper meaning and has a bigger impact.
To be dissapointed that Candyman isn’t frightening is to miss the truly scary aspects of what it means to be black in America and perhaps the scariest (and most important) scene comes towards the end of the film when Brianna is found amongst the aftermath of some Candymanning and is taken into custody by white cops. Without going into any more detail (as it is a great sequence) these scenes sum up the underlying messages of both Candyman films while also highlighting just how much more terrifying reality is for Black communities in America, even when there is a hook-handed demon out to destroy your life.
Other reviewers have bemoaned Candyman for ramming its message down their throat and arguing that horror films aren’t supposed to do that. I find this fascinating as Horror is, traditionally, one of the more politicised genres and lends itself well to allegory and metaphor. I don’t agree with this criticism and I don’t think the message is “rammed” down anyone’s throat. As a middle-class, white male, I suspect I missed some of the more subtle aspects of the theme, but I never felt preached to even while the film was giving me a clear message.
And, let’s face it, some messages need to be unambiguous because it takes so long for so many people to get it.
Candyman is politicised. The 1992 original is also polticised; it is a subject matter that can be nothing but. However, I don’t think it rams anything down anyone’s throat. It says what it says in a very stylish way with some great performances from Yahya and Teyonah and terrrific supporting turns from Nathan Stewart-Jarret as Brianna’s brother, Troy and Colman Domingo as William Burke, a local man with knowledge of the Candyman. It wasn’t particularly scary (for me) but there is fear for Anthony and what is happening to him and how that affects Brianna and those around him. I didn’t find the 1992 Candyman particularly scary on my rewatch, but it is a powerful film and, like the 2021 Candyman, has some moments of harsh brutality (even if you don’t see everything on screen) clearly relecting the reality of life in America for so many people. I don’t think the films are meant to be scary, they are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. To squirm. And they both do a great job of that.
Ultimately, Candyman is back in all his imposing, brutal glory.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of the original.
— nah, fuck that…