Another day, another “updated sequel to a classic horror film that ignores the events of previous sequels.”
“Candyman” is a sequel to the 1992 semi-cult classic of the same name, and like 2018’s “Halloween” omits the events of the other (less well-received) sequels. The film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as an artist who becomes obsessed with the urban legend of the Candyman, a ghost who kills anyone who says his name into a mirror five time. Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo also star while Nia DaCosta directs a script she co-wrote with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld.
I recently saw the original “Candyman” film and enjoyed it. I think it is a nice semi-detective story with good performances by Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, even if the rules and powers surrounding the titular boogeyman are a bit unclear. The 2021 film puts a new coat of paint on the franchise, with some good sound design and camerawork elevating the familiar story.
Jordan Peele is arguably one of the most synonymous names with horror films right now alongside James Wan and M. Night Shyamalan, and while he doesn’t direct here this certainly feels like a spiritual relative to his “Get Out” and “Us.” From the unnerving atmosphere to the social and racial commentary, Peele’s influences on Nia DaCosta’s film are clear. The film has a clean look to it (sometimes a detractor in the genre) but DaCosta uses that almost to trick the audience, similar to how the characters discuss how the gentrification of ghettos is a plot against the poor. Cinematographer John Guleserian implements several clever and amusing camera tricks to give us chills or increase the intrigue of a kill, though DaCosta and her crew do not turn things into torture porn like the “Saw” films.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s stock has skyrocketed in recent years, from starring in “Aquaman” to being a darkhorse Oscar contender in last year’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” He isn’t given too-too much heavy work to do here, but how he conveys his character’s growing disconnect with the real world and those around him, as his mind and body literally fall apart due to the Candyman legend, is effectively done. Colman Domingo, who was very fun in this year’s “Zola,” is creepy but charming in his few scenes, too.
The film’s biggest problems are really those of the original, and that lies with the writing. Side characters aren’t fleshed out too much outside the bare-minimum the narrative requires them to be, and the rules surrounding the Candyman are as jumbled as they were in 1992. Why does he kill some instantly and others over time as the plot needs? Unclear. While the first film’s mystery and confusion about his grab-bag of powers were somewhat bonkers and enjoyable, here I found it somewhat distracting from the enjoyment of the finale.
“Candyman” works well as a long-delayed sequel as well a soft reboot, honoring its source material while also introducing the legend to a new generation of moviegoers. This should play well in packed 8pm showings, and acts as a nice calling card for DaCosta and Abdul-Mateen to be players in the genre moving forward. We have been spoiled by the mini horror renaissance in recent years and I think that while this isn’t a game-changer itself, it is still a scary movie with more on its mind than blood and guts, which is always a welcome treat.
Critics Rating: 7/10