After 27 years, Candyman has been summoned once again.
“Candyman” (2021) is a continuation of the 1992 folk horror classic “Candyman.” This new film is directed by Nia DaCosta, who directed “Little Woods.” DaCosta wrote the film along with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld.
The film follows Anthony McCoy, a prolific artist in Chicago. He lives with his girlfriend Brianna, who works as an art gallery director. Seeking inspiration, Anthony learns about the history of Candyman, an imposing figure with a hook for a hand and a swarm of bees around him that can be summoned by saying his name in the mirror five times. In his pursuit, Anthony slowly begins to lose himself as Candyman returns.
“Candyman” is an incredible horror film centered around generational pain, artistic trauma and the ignoring of African Americans’ well-being for the sake of art. It’s a stylistic film with subtle horror and some not-so-subtle messaging.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II leads as Anthony McCoy. He does an incredible job, focusing on the smaller details of his descent into Candyman. Abdul-Mateen II is fantastic in his larger performances, but his presence is just as demanding in the quieter moments of this film, utilizing a different part of his acting capabilities. Aspects like his confidence, madness, curiosity and fear shine through in this performance.
Teyonah Parris plays Brianna, and she does an excellent job as well. She gets across Brianna’s intelligence and capability to hold her own, especially against the people that try to push her in the wrong directions. There’s one scene in particular, where Brianna meets a new curator, that Parris performs wonderfully, bringing to light Brianna’s fears and concerns in terms of herself as a creative talent.
Colman Domingo plays laundromat owner William Burke, who is the catalyst for Anthony’s Candyman lessons. He is incredible in the film, chewing every scene that he is in and drawing the viewer towards him almost every chance he can get. This film and “Zola” have cemented Domingo as not only an actor to look forward to, but as one of the most interesting screen presences in the modern era.
Finally, Nathan Stewart-Jarret plays Brianna’s brother Troy, and Michael Hargrove plays Sherman Fields — otherwise known as Candyman. Both deliver great performances for different reasons.
Stewart-Jarret radiates supportive brother energy, sticking up for Brianna alongside his husband.
Totally opposite of him, Fields has a cold and terrifying presence, with the few times that he is seen leaving a lasting impression until he appears again. He’s great, even if he might not fully match Tony Todd’s performance in the original film.
Speaking of Candyman appearing, the cinematography is excellent. It’s one of the most visually striking horror films that I’ve seen in a while, not in terms of insane visuals but through incredible composition and an eye for shots that match the tone of each scene.
There are several extreme angles, densely packed wide shots and purposeful zooms. The framing and blocking of scenes are perfect, showcasing information and Candyman for the audience primarily through mirrors.
Mirrors play an important part in the film, as they are where Candyman resides. A majority of the horror comes from Candyman appearing in reflections without occupying space in the real world. It’s subtle but not hidden, and it works as the audience begins to pick up on it throughout the film.
Along with that, the horror sequences specifically don’t show a lot, which might be annoying to some but can work excellently at times. For example, there’s a sequence in a bathroom that is intense, unnerving and terrifying, as you primarily hear everything happening.
The horror is built upon Candyman as an entity. This film builds upon the urban mythology created in the first “Candyman” movie. It expands the legacy of the character, showing that Candyman is multiple African Americans that have been systemically and racially judged, resulting in their deaths at the hands of corrupt judiciaries. It becomes a larger narrative built on generational pain, detailing how this continuous cycle of violence and racism transforms people.
In a similar vein, the film focuses on themes of trauma and how people exploit Black artists for their work. The film continuously delves into these themes, showing how curators and critics feed off of the trauma that African Americans experience in order for them to gain from it.
Even when Anthony creates something that he feels more connected to, it gets written off until it becomes a capital investment for these people, resulting in their uncaring nature when Anthony’s health begins to deteriorate.
At times, these themes as well as discussions of gentrification — presented in terms of real estate and artistry — can be on the nose, hammering it into the audience’s head that these are important topics to be discussed. However, it’s not bad, and for every obvious example there was a subtler, more provocative example not far behind.
Obviously, I cannot speak to everything that is represented in this film. I have not experienced what this film is discussing. That being said, I’ve read several critiques, some scathing and some positive. The best ones that I’ve found are Angelica Jade Bastién’s review in Vulture, Odie Henderson’s review for RogerEbert.com, Carolyn Hinds’ review in Awards Watch and Robert Daniels’ review for Polygon. Their writing speaks volumes more than anything I can say.
To what I can discuss, the final touches of the film’s technical execution work well. The editing is on point, cutting when it feels right while also not staying too long on anything it doesn’t need to. The score matches the haunting chants of the original, only modernizing it a little bit.
Finally, there were parts of the film shown through puppetry and shadows, which were used to retell parts of the first film as well as Candyman’s backstory. These were some of the best parts of the film, especially in diving into urban folklore in a visually interesting way.
“Candyman” is a great horror sequel. It captures what the original film did while expanding on several elements from it. It can be unsubtle at times, but it remained a chilling experience all the way through the credits.
I can’t speak to every aspect of the film, but what I took away from it left an impression on me. It’s a film that I will be thinking about for a while, diving into the metaphors and themes presented within it.
Along with that, the horror elements themselves were well handled, leaving a lasting impression through the sparse imagery shown. It left some of the horrific elements to the imagination, creating some memorable sequences that were equal parts intriguing and terrifying.
All in all, it was excellent. Also, I can’t wait to see Colman Domingo do more work.