Review: Candy Man (2021)

Candy Man (2021)

Directed by: Nia DaCosta | 91 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Bryan King, Miriam Moss, Rebecca Spence, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Christiana Clark, Michael Hargrove, Rodney L Jones III, Heidi Grace Engerman, Ireon Roach, Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd

When ‘Candyman’ came out in 1992, people were challenged to say ‘Candyman’ five times in front of the mirror. Of course, no one believed that a man with a hook came to kill you. Yet no one came to five times. ‘Candyman’ is based on a short story, ‘The Forbidden’, by English horror writer Clive Barker (of ‘Hellraiser’ fame). In ‘Candyman’ (1992) a student is working on a master’s thesis on legends and folklores. She comes across the legend of Candyman, the ghost of a black artist, and son of a slave, who was murdered in the 19th century because of his relationship with the daughter of a rich white man.

Directed by Nia DaCosta (“Little Woods”) and written by Jordan Peele (“Get Out” and “Us”) and Win Rosenfeld (Nia DaCosta also has writing credits), “Candyman” (2021) is a direct sequel to “Candyman” ( 1992). It doesn’t take into account the 1995 sequel, “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh” and the 1999 third installment, “Candyman: Day of the Dead.” No one cares about this because part two and part three are faint shadows of part 1. ‘Candyman’ (1992) wasn’t just a horror film. It was a critique of the racial tensions that have always been part of the collective consciousness. It will also be discussed in the sequel and therefore fits in well with the current climate where systemic racism has, unfortunately, once again been rudely put on the radar (eg George Floyd).

Anthony, a visual arts artist, lives with his girlfriend, Brianna, in Chicago. His career is in a slump and he is looking for inspiration. When Brianna’s brother, Troy, comes to visit, he tells them about Helen Lyle, a graduating student who left a trail of corpses and wanted to sacrifice a child in a bonfire in Cabrini-Green (a social housing neighborhood in Chicago). The bystanders managed to save this child after which Helen jumped into the fire. This story appeals to Anthony and he sets out to investigate. He goes to Cabrini-Green for inspiration where he meets William, the owner of a laundromat. This one tells him about Candyman. And this is where Anthony’s obsession begins that connects the world of Candyman and this one.

The plot is essentially strong with injustice towards black people, not left in limbo. The hatred and frustration are left as twisted emotions and have scary, bloody consequences for all who mock the unspeakable. However, the elaboration of the plot is thin with forced horror scenes that sometimes suddenly appear like an odd duck.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II convincingly plays the role of Anthony, as an obsessed and tormented performer. While he first hears the story of Candyman in disbelief and ridicule, the transformation to paranoia is believable. Sadly, less and less of his acting talent is needed and his role languishes under the weight of a rapidly becoming standard plot. Also Teyonah Parris as Brianna is so natural in her role that it seems as if she is not acting and does not realize that a camera is pointed at her. She, too, perishes under the rigorous demands of the plot, which is heading like a runaway train towards a certain goal. Colman Domingo as William and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy are there more to get the story started. Acting talent is not so much needed for this because the nuance of the story mainly lies on the hook, the hatred and the blood.

This ‘Candyman’ lacks the raw horror of the first part. And by horror is not meant the cruelty of a rusty hook and human flesh but a state of slumbering fear under the skin and a suspicion of intangible evil that is always out of sight. The acting talents also did not fully come into their own and the horror scenes are sometimes not logically incorporated into the story. This gives the film a messy and rushed impression. Despite this, it’s a good thing the film was made, especially since it can be an outlet for racial inequality and institutionalized racism. There is also a good chance that you will avoid mirrors for a few days after seeing the film. And if a movie has that effect, at least that’s something.

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