You’re probably wondering why I’m writing a film review but I have a valid reason. I was pretty excited to hear about the new Candyman film that was coming out and last year I had planned to do a Candyman themed photoshoot for Halloween. It didn’t happen for various reasons. Then with the film being pushed back a few times I decided ok I have until August 2021 to get it done - I still haven’t. Winter and a really cold apartment makes it hard to work with plaster. It's also my first time using plaster so I'm now just waiting for warmer weather to try again. It just wouldn’t dry. It was also tricky to find a model. My first casting call I added a photo of Candyman and said I wanted a female horror fan - and then I got a whole lot of white girls applying. It baffled me seeing as Candyman is obviously a black man and the film involves the topic of racism. My 2nd casting call I added POC (Person Of Colour) and still got white girls applying and replying to them that I have no interest in white-washing this character. As it stands, I have 2 people interested and one of them I’m pretty sure hasn’t even heard of the movie. So as of this week, I realised Candyman turns 30 next year and that is now my new deadline.
Date released 26th August 2021
Director: Nia DaCosta
Writers: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright
Nathan Stewart-Jarr as Troy Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William Burke
Candyman follows visual artist Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend Brianna. One evening Brianna’s brother Troy and his boyfriend are over when Troy brings up Anthony’s artist block and insists on telling them a scary story about Helen Lyle, but like all urban legend tales the stories details have changed quite a bit in the last 29 years. The story peaks Anthony's interest and he sets out exploring the old neighbourhood where he meets laundromat owner William Burke. William tells him the story of the Candyman he knew as a child - Sherman Fields. Back in the 70’s, Sherman Fields was a man with a hook for a hand that liked to give the local children candy. The problem was some kids found a razor blade in theirs and the police were on the hunt for Sherman. "The police come around. That's when I saw the true face of fear." Williams screams brought the police running which led to Sherman's death. A couple of weeks later more children fell victim to a razor blade in their candy and everyone realised Sherman was in fact innocent. This spurs Anthony to create an installation called "Say My Name" for his next art show, a mirror that welcomes people to say Candyman five times and which sets the rest of the film in motion.
The first thing I noticed when the film started was the opening credits scene. The cinematography choices here were quite striking. Looking upwards at skyscrapers with dark and ominous clouds and I wondered if this was a nod to the original where the opening credits were bleak aerial views of the city. There were some interesting visual choices made throughout the movie using reflections in mirrors and glass windows to show us Candyman with many scenes opting not to directly show us the killer which made the film feel more supernatural.
There were plenty of subtle connections to the original without it feeling forced. An example is while Helen Lyle is taking photos in the empty apartment she finds a stash of candy wrapped with razor blades, the same candy we hear about in the story of Sherman Fields. Vanessa William’s cameo is linked to a main character and can I just say - I feel so dumb I never made that connection before today, also she hasn’t aged in almost 30 years!
For the most part I liked that there weren’t any main white characters - in fact the white people in this film were mostly dumb and let’s face facts, white people do dumb shit in horror movies. They’re the ones calling Bloody Mary or playing with ouija boards or it's some Incel running around slashing people because he got turned down for a date. It’s a big reason I have enjoyed movies by Jordan Peele, they feel more intelligent and I’ve seen many online complain about his using race as plot lines but seriously who cares? Racism is a worldwide issue and anyone who has a problem about a black director making a film about black people probably has some bigger issues to be worrying about.
The kill scenes were pretty cool, plenty of blood and cool sfx makeup. Personally I would say there were no jump scares (I never notice them anyway) but if I'm going to be completely honest the only time my skin crawled involved a scene with Anthony's hand. I'm not saying what scene, but if you've seen the movie then you will probably know what I'm talking about.
Art is a theme that is throughout the film. The whole film involves artists, art gallery owners, art critics and the use of shadow puppets felt like a perfect addition to the film as another visual art form. I loved the use of the puppets to tell the story of Daniel Robitaille, the original Candyman, rather than getting in actors to re-enact the scene we’ve already seen before in past sequels. Even ignoring the other films, I thought this was a respectful way to acknowledge Tony Todd’s portrayal of Candyman. Adding on to that, the 1992 version ended with Helen being the new ‘Candyman’ and the sequels never explored that further. Rather than just make a carbon copy film, the writers have taken that element and elaborated on the legend giving us a new Candyman in Sherman Fields. He wears a similar costume but his story is his own.
As Anthony becomes more psychologically affected it reflects in his paintings. His first painting is simple, there's no room for interpretation. He's taken the topic and gone completely literal with it. The further along he goes the more chaotic his paintings become turning into abstract undead portraits. To be honest I loved them. For me they really told us where he's at mentally. They're unsettling and I sat there wondering why I haven't set my own easel up yet.
“They love what we make, but not us.”
- William Burke
This line hit hard but it’s true. Everyone loves black music, black sportsmen, black actors…but somehow they still aren’t seen as equal to white people. The subject of racism has been modernised in the sequel and it’s interesting to note the differences over time. The OG Candyman was the son of a slave who had a talent for painting and was hired to paint the portrait of some rich dude’s daughter. They fell in love and she became pregnant which ended with Daniel being tortured and murdered. He’s good enough to paint their portraits but not good enough to be one of them. In the 90’s when the original film was made, interracial couples were still considered taboo and sadly in my family it’s somehow shocking even now, but in 2021 the film features a gay interracial couple - a sign of what’s more socially (to a degree) acceptable now. This modern version also looks at police brutality - something that became a huge focus of 2020 with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite having to wait an extra year for Candyman to be released, I wasn’t disappointed. The lack of hype might have helped, Candyman didn’t follow movies like Halloween Kills with their constant need to remind us on a weekly basis why it’s going to be the best movie we’ve ever seen. Yes I’m dissing Halloween here but we do seem to live in an age now where TV shows and movies feel the need to tell us EVERYTHING before it’s come out. Just look at the upcoming Dexter series. It leaves nothing to be surprised about anymore. In the week since this film has been out I've not seen a single spoiler or review of it and I’m actually amazed.
What I always loved about Candyman and probably why he's a character that always stood out to me is that he is not a villain in the traditional sense like Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, he's a man that had bad things done to him. He's a brutal killer but at the same time you have empathy for him and these are qualities that have followed through to this sequel.
Overall I thought the general tone of the film was comparable to the original, making this a movie that will be easy to watch back to back with the 1992 version. The kill scenes are memorable and the changes to Candyman’s lore worked well. I wish more reboot-sequels could be like this *looks at The Craft: Legacy*.