A painter from Cabrini Green learns about the legend of Candyman,
and becomes his obsession when he recklessly summons him.
Directed by Nia DaCosta
Written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan
Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky,
Vanessa Williams, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Michael Hargrove
Sequel to 1992's Candyman
Based on characters created by Clive Barker
It’s no secret the original Candyman is considered one of the most iconic horror films of all time. And Tony Todd is royalty in the genre. A film known for its smart blend of clever social commentary, riveting story, and terrifying villain. It was such a huge success it would go on to spawn two more sequels. Ones which were so bad the franchise went dead in the water for a very long time. Also, there was a confusing rights issue which took time to figure out as well. But, as we know, no horror icon stays dead for long. Enter Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta, who both seemed to be very keen on bring this story to a brand-new audience. Once the rights issue was cleared, they set about to create a film which would serve as a direct sequel to the original (the hot new trend in horror) while bringing the social commentary forward to reflect what’s going on today.
As I mentioned, it’s no secret the status of the original film, thanks in large part to its social commentary and place within the black community. Commentary is still, unfortunately, relevant to today. The filmmakers do a great job of carrying forward the themes already present in the original and using them as the basis for this new film, while also including some new issues relevant to today. This alone creates a strong thematic through between the two films, making this one feel like a proper sequel. It doesn’t end there, though. Our main character, played wonderfully by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, is the grown-up baby from the original. So, with the themes, there is also a solid story connection present. A lot of this incredible connection to the original is thanks to director Nia DaCosta. Along with Peele, she clearly gets why everyone has fallen in love with the original and it shows here. Especially in regards to the gore scenes. Instead of outright showing us the goods, she films everything in the POV of some kind of mirror in the room. Which, in turn, further enhances the urban legend feel of this iconic character.
Much like the original, I could go on about this one all day. Minus wanting a bit more of a better reason to include our main character into the plot and more Tony Todd, this is a film which just simply gets the original. The filmmakers clearly have something to say with this character and in today’s society. They also know how craft a compelling story and some gorgeously shot death scenes. Say his name. I dare you.
At its core, Candyman is about legacy. A legacy of pain, anger, hatred, suffering, and fear. The character of Candyman is less a man and more of a title. That's what Nia DaCosta's reboot/sequel introduces to the mythos, and it allows us to reexamine the character in ways we never have before. While I still believe the 1992 original to be scarier, this version for a new generation has a very strong story and some incredible sound design, to say the least. It lacks a bit in coherence, particularly the mechanics of Candyman, which have gotten a little more complex beyond just "say his name." Beyond that, though, this is a solid continuation.
Anthony McCoy (Abdul-Mateen) is all grown up and trying to make it big in the art world. Reintroducing Candyman in a gentrified Cabrini Green surrounded by art snobs who think he's a reemerging trend was brilliant, by the way. Anthony learns about Candyman and tries to adapt the legend into a series of paintings, only to cause death wherever he goes since people are constantly summoning him out of jest. More so, Anthony can feel himself changing. Into what, he doesn't know. While the ending is a bit abrupt and we only get one scene with Tony Todd, the way Nia DaCosta revamped the Candyman mythology by combining the legend with the ongoing systemic racism against black people in the U.S. was genius.
No matter who puts on that big coat and rams that hook into their stump, Tony Todd will always be Candyman. Despite his being featured in the first trailer and the buzz surrounding his return to the role, I was disappointed we didn't get to see him more. But his shadow looms over the film, as does the incident with Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen from the first film). Overall, 2021's Candyman is a decent watch and a worthy successor.