[Movie Review] CANDYMAN
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Picture it. I’m 16 years old and I’m having friends over for a spooky horror movie marathon starting with 1992’s Candyman. There are moments in life that are significant turning points, and for me this was one of them. I was so terrified with what I had just watched that I immediately took the DVD and threw out in the trash. Since then, the film has held a special place in my heart because not many films elicit such a strong reaction from me. Plus, Tony Todd’s performance is unmatched for he is Candyman. Needless to say, when it was announced that Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) signed on as the director for the new CANDYMAN film, the hype was on. So did this new re-imagining live up to the hype? Read on to find out.

In Nia DaCosta’s CANDYMAN, viewers are introduced to visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner Brianna (Teyonah Parris), a gallery director, who has just moved into a luxury loft condo in the now gentrified neighborhood of Cabrini. On the path for inspiration, Anthony runs into Cabrini-Green’s old-timer, William Burke (Colman Domingo) who immerses Anthony into the true story surrounding the urban legend of Candyman. Finally freeing himself of his artist block, Anthony uses the legend of Candyman as his source of inspiration but, as his obsession grows, he begins a downward spiral into insanity and violence as dark secrets are exposed and truths are revealed.

I’ll admit that on my first viewing of this film, I was let down. I initially felt like the movie lacked the spark that was needed to make an impact similar to the original. Thankfully, I decided to revisit the film one more time before writing this in hopes that I would have a different reaction upon sitting with it. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened as I realized my criticism was my own expectations of what I expected the film to be. Sometimes it’s best to just sit with a film and allow it to reveal itself to you.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in CANDYMAN l Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Guiding this beast of a film is Director Nia DaCosta. As a director, her strengths lie in her visual representation of the writing. Her direction and stylized design make this reimagining stand out from its predecessor. Featuring lots of shots through glass, it makes the unfolding horror and appearance of Candyman even more disturbing. A large majority of the shots are done this way to symbolize the dual nature of people, the side of us that we don’t want to show because we don’t trust what could be hidden deep below the surface. DaCosta had big shoes to fill and she accomplished the task that she was set out to do by making a memorable companion to the original.

Leading the film are actors Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”) and Teyonah Parris (“WandaVision”) who play a successful couple who work within the art world but soon finding themselves in a waking nightmare. Abdul-Mateen II and Parris play off one another, allowing there to be a true sense of chemistry between the two. The relationship between the two is tested as Anthony begins to spiral more and more. and Abdul-Mateen II’s performance works because his transformation from who we see him as at the beginning to where he ends up is believable. Through both of their performances, they are able to evoke a true sense of pain and suffering, making it easy for the audience to root for them.

On the flip side, you have Colman Domingo’s (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) performance as William Burke. It goes without saying that Domingo is a presence and can easily steal a scene. However, in CANDYMAN, he takes a backseat approach until it’s his time for him to shine, and boy oh boy does he shine.

Still from CANDYMAN

The story written by Jordan Peele (Get Out), DaCosta, and Win Rosenfeld is multilayered. It hits all the notes needed to give a respectable homage to the original film while expanding upon the issues of gentrification and police brutality. Combined with Nia DaCosta’s skills as a director, they were able to bring about a story that is far more than just a horrific tale of a man with a hooked hand. There are important topics that the film does not shy away from. It’s out in the open and it’s raw and painful. Additionally, the trio crafted a story that allows it to stand on its own. There are references to the first film but if you’re coming in blind to this reimagining of CANDYMAN, you won’t be lost. There’s enough flashback info to get you attuned to what happened in the OG. That being said, whether you do it before or afterward, I would recommend giving the original a watch.

When it comes to horror movies, fans of the genre are always chomping at the bit to know how intense the gore and scares are. CANDYMAN features some of those good ole’ jump scares but for the most part, relies on subtly to bring the scares. As for the kills, that’s one of my favorite aspects of the film. So many times we see the same kills style of kills done over and over again. It leaves for a monotonous feel but in CANDYMAN, the opposite is true. I don’t want to give too much away, but the way in which the kills are set up and then executed, these deaths scenes end up being their own work of disturbing craftmanship. 

I know I keep talking about the visuals and that’s because they are the star of the film. Where the original had a more gritty feeling, this one is much shiner and clean. At first, that threw me off, but as I rewatched it I realized that was the point. We are in the present and Cabrini-Green has changed since its appearance in the 1992 film. It is now a ghost town surrounded by high-rise buildings and condominiums. Low-income housing is pushed away from the bustling and expensive feel of this area of Chicago. It’s apparent that Cabrini-Green and its haunted past are tucked away into a dark corner in the hopes that folks will forget about it. But legends never die and the legend of Candyman has a much deeper meaning. 

Still from CANDYMAN

Overall, Nia DaCosta’s CANDYMAN is a visual tour-de-force and a worthy successor to the 1992 film. It hits differently than the original and it’s best to go into it with as little information as possible. It’s a visual feast that is stunning to watch unfold on screen. It’s violent and raw but most importantly it’s unapologetic in its messages. As the saying goes, Candyman isn’t a he, it’s the whole damn hive and they are here to stay. 

CANDYMAN will be in theaters on August 27, 2021. All images courtesy Universal Pictures.

Shannon McGrew
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