Candyman Movie Review
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman… maybe if I say it five more times we’ll get a better movie? The long-awaited remake/sequel to the 1992 cult classic is a nice-looking and well-acted horror film that unfortunately isn’t worth the anticipation, even if it comes close at times.
The original, which starred Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd as the title character, was the first horror movie I ever saw. I was maybe in fourth grade, and it fucked me up. For weeks (months?) I couldn’t go into a dark bathroom… I had to reach around without looking to switch the lights on first. Having watched it again for the first time--a day before watching the 2021 version--I was surprised at how well it held up, even if it isn’t nearly as scary as my 11-year-old self thought it was.
The new Candyman, which doesn’t require you to see the original, thankfully isn’t a repeat--it’s clearly a sequel, with new characters and a different story, but set in the same, albeit-now-gentrified neighborhood. It also isn’t as good, or as satisfying, as you’d hope.
A lot of credit to director and co-write Nia DaCosta (other screenplay credits go to Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld) for presenting something new and taking a deeper dive into the racial themes of the franchise (the 1992 version was written and directed by a white man, and despite being set in a completely black neighborhood, focused on a white woman). This new Candyman is angry, dark, and simmering, and DaCosta (Little Woods) more than has the chops to deliver the goods.
And at times, she does. Though she keeps a little too much of the violence off screen, the several killing sequences are well-staged. A bathroom scene involving several teenage girls is brutal, while another involving an art curator and his “intern” is worth watching a few times over.
But something about the overall product feels a tad flat. The elements are there, but DaCosta, in her film about death, fails to breathe life into the story. While both Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays Anthony, and Teynoah Parris (Brianna) are terrific in their respective roles, DaCosta leans on them in the wrong ways; she seems more interested in Anthony’s descent into madness/candy than Brianna’s more straightforward protagonist turn, and yet when it comes time for Brianna to take center stage it’s too little, too late. Anthony’s self-destruction isn’t as compelling as you’d might expect; instead, more time should have been spent developing Brianna and her friends, even if it’s queuing some of them up for slaughter.
Much has been made about Jordan Peele’s involvement (and using him as the headliner over DaCosta, the director), but to compare to Peele’s films--the crowd pleaser Get Out and the ambitious Us, both of which tackle subjects of racial and socioeconomic inequality--what DaCosta’s effort lacks is not the look or themes, but the disciplined focus on character and minute-by-minute entertainment value. Candyman may offer up some sweet moments, but the sugary exterior wears off too early to make it worth it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.