Candyman (2021)
Candyman (2021)

Genre: Slasher Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: August 27th, 2021 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Nia DaCosta Actors: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Rebecca Spence, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Heidi Grace Engerman

 


 

I

n the Cabrini-Green projects of Illinois in 1977, little Billy (Rodney L. Jones III) heads to a neighboring building to do a load of laundry. When a piece of candy is tossed through a considerable crack in the wall, and out steps a towering, dark man with a hook for a hand, the child screams, alerting policemen stationed nearby. Decades later, in 2019, long after the area has been gentrified, now showing off a modern sleekness and refinement, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) dine in their new high-rise with relative Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and his boyfriend Grady (Kyle Kaminsky). Troy attempts to spook them with the tale of a woman named Helen Lyle, who became obsessed with the urban legend of Candyman, which drove her insane – leading to a heinous murder spree, ending when she threw herself into a bonfire.

“Your new apartment is ghost-proof.” Somewhat inspired by the myths surrounding Helen and her supernatural tormenter Candyman – notoriously adorned with a meat hook for a hand and perpetually surrounded by bees – Anthony begins to poke around the area, conducting light research, and even speaking to older residents like William Burke (Colman Domingo), who lived through a confrontation with Candyman himself. He chronicles events back in ’77, when a transient named Sherman (Michael Hargrove) was beaten to death by cops, who erroneously blamed him for razor blades turning up in candy, which further contributed to horror stories passed on through the years. “You need a hand?”

The premise of the titular monster is essentially a combination of the original 1992 film, based on a Clive Barker story, and an updated plot about an innocent black man targeted by brutal law enforcement. It embraces comparable concepts and themes, particularly those of vengeance (a spirit materialized to express angst and suffering), racism, sacrifice, and an inescapable loop of inequality, while the core components remain: summoning a supernatural slayer by repeating his name five times in a mirror (an act whose origin and significance are not reiterated). There’s an added notion involving the history of violence and pain in Cabrini-Green, stretching across time periods, but always, indelibly scarring the occupants. With Jordan Peele co-writing the screenplay, engaging commentary on race relations is at the forefront (yet often too on-the-nose for any real satisfaction; subtleties are absent when characters explain exactly what they represent), though it tends to get routinely shrouded by excessive bloodshed.

As expected, jumpy scares, body horror (some akin to “The Fly” [1986]), unnerving moments with mirrors and senses of duality, and nightmarish visions compose the brunt of the thrills. Deeper socioeconomic messages are bombarded by imagery of battered corpses, punctuated by throat-cutting, or washed away altogether by geysers of blood. The violence is considerable but rarely affecting; from a creative standpoint, the various death scenes fail to stand out. As a slasher, there isn’t anything especially innovative about Candyman’s trail of slaughters, even if individual shots of gore and makeup effects are appropriately unsettling.

By the conclusion, it’s evident that this part-remake, part-sequel doesn’t add much to the franchise, principally just reiterating a handful of ideas or reworking them for contemporary audiences accustomed to greater levels of death and destruction. Even the parting shots are too derivative and unconvincingly manufactured to be potent, regardless of the redefining of Candyman’s legacy and lore (and an adjustment for a universality of ethnic oppression). But perhaps the biggest disappointment is the basic lack of meaningful characters; no one here is really worth caring about, nor are they developed in a manner that moves them beyond mere victims to be butchered for an ogling camera.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10