Candyman (2021) REVIEW
Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele revive the tale of Candyman in a feature exploring racism and human superstition just as its inspiration did. Overall, the film is well made and gripping but the ending leaves us on an uneasy cliff-hanger perhaps knocking it from a ‘great’ film to a ‘good’ one.
I enjoyed this remake very much from its atmosphere of supernatural dread to the acting and character development. This film is a quintessential horror flick and possesses all of the narrative tropes characterising the genre. These include the mysterious, hidden past of an unknowing protagonist, the carelessness of humans who in turn become prime victims and the gory, slasher violence akin to Candyman (1992).
Candyman (2021) delves deeper into racial injustice whether through subtle irony or blatant examples of discrimination. We see the latter through a disparity between the police and residents of the projects. They refrain from calling the authorities due to notorious institutionalised racism evident in the unrelenting police brutality aimed at a supposed iteration of Candyman near the film’s beginning. Thusly, the movie’s nuanced approach to discrimination separates it from the generic pool of horror features. In the original Candyman, we see discrimination through domestic deprivation of an African American majority and the portrayal of women as passive and hysterical. Alternatively, the modern remake incorporates a strong female lead and diverse characters which throngs the age-old Candyman into our contemporary society making it all the more chilling.
Our protagonist, Anthony, played by Yahya Abdul Muteen II (HBO’s Watchmen, Aquaman) is an artist. Coupled with the setting of the art gallery, Costa establishes art as a central motif in the movie. The story supports the idea that art imitates life just as the Candyman imitates life and more widely suggests that curiosity and faith is enough to bring the imagined into existence. As watchers of the original know, this belief is what fuels Candyman’s existence in the real world. The power of faith and obsession is what materialises him into reality which is an adept commentary on how humanity is hinged upon morbid curiosity, a yearning to pursue the unknown as seeing is believing.
Art is in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes and Anthony, who seeks his big break is inspired by stories said to have formed the hook-handed being. The notion of the tortured artist is discussed in the movie which perfectly sums up Anthony’s character, yet this torture supersedes the mental and incorporates the metaphysical. The iconic theme of bees in the Candyman saga plays an integral role in the movie despite not featuring as abundantly as it does in its predecessors. Nevertheless, the flying insect stings Anthony who in turn metamorphosises into Candyman as his flesh decays and wilts. This is another trope, of the gross and unsightly, which furthers the horrific, parasitic terror the Candyman invokes.
I highly rate Yaya’s performance in this, his character’s descent into the dreadful Candyman is written well but portrayed believably. I have been a fan of his since HBO’s 2019 miniseries Watchmen and I am glad to see him start landing bigger roles and growing his skillset, acting range and rapport. The way his character is plagued by visions of Candyman in his reflection is directed in unsettling angles which highlight his shock horror.
All good horror movies have a twist and when we realise that Anthony was the baby kidnapped in the original, his cursed fate of becoming the next Candyman unravels. This, along with previous versions of Candyman introduces a twisted succession and reign of terror. This terror is a form of revenge from the tortured and neglected and presents a retribution where the past catches up and fixes to destroy the present – a twisted form of karma if you will.
The film is a box office success with a tidy $22 million opening weekend, and it certainly deserves that figure for the way it pays homage to the iconic original and its reigniting of the Candyman legend with a stellar cast and modern day setting. The movie feels fresh and gripping until the very end, but one thing I must mention is the open-endedness of the final scene, maybe they are setting up a sequel which would explain the ambiguity, it felt as if the writers cut the film too short which is a fair take given the approx. 90 minute runtime. Despite this, I certainly recommend you watch the film and that you see the 1992 original by the same name beforehand as the remake relies on previous knowledge.
I rate Candyman (2021) a 7.5/10.
Be sure to read my review of the original Candyman (1992) here.