Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead
Review: Horror reboots are all the rage and, for better or worse, they’re here to stay. It takes a deft hand to take a beloved classic and make it into something that will be appreciated by both the original fans and newcomers. And when I heard they were going to give the old reboot/remake/reimagining treatment to the 1992 horror classic Candyman, I was apprehensive to say the least.
Co-written by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), Nia DaCosta (DaCosta also directed the update and it’s her second film after 2018 crime thriller Little Woods), and Win Rosenfeld, Candyman 2021 doesn’t just take the original solid script and repackage it for modern audiences but the writers created a sequel that can stand like its predecessor. And it is a film which explores themes of prejudice and the damage that years of injustice and unresolved trauma can do to a people who choose to ignore their suffering.
Cabrini Green has been gentrified and the horrors that happened there are now urban legends. On one faithful night the legend of Candyman and graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is told to artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of Aquaman, HBO’s Watchmen) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris of Dear White People, WandaVision) by her brother Troy (or, as he pronounces it, Ta-Roy). Anthony is fascinated by the story and decides to do the one thing most people of colour would never do—say Candyman’s name five times into a mirrored surface. Things begin to unravel as Anthony uses the nightmares he starts having about the Man with the Sweets in his artwork. And as word begins to spread Candyman once again meets out his own brand of justice to those who would take his name in vain.
Small changes like Candyman not appearing physically but in mirrored surfaces, or Anthony’s slow but painful transformation due to a bee sting, were just some of the things added by Da Costa and the team to make their movie standout and not just be another hollow remake that relies on nostalgia to get viewers’ attention. I also loved how well both movies (the original and the “sequel”) mesh together to the point you can eliminate the much weaker sequels Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Day of the Dead (1999) without missing a beat.
Abdul-Mateen does a wonderful job of making the role his own and Parris as his girlfriend Brianna is a character I would love to spend more time with. Here’s hoping she’s back for the next movie (What? You didn’t think they would stop with one, did you?). The shadow puppets used to tell the original story was an imaginative choice, and while the blood and gore didn’t pour as much as I was hoping it would, the sound design went a long way in making each kill impactful (just like with the 1992 version). Of course there was no way Jordan Peele was going to co-write a horror movie that didn’t have allegories to the tragedies and nightmarish violence African Americans have to deal with on a daily basis. The way this is blended into the legend behind the “creation” of Candyman is arguably stronger than the original, which also touched on white supremacy but didn’t delve too deeply, probably in fear of alienating audiences at that time.
When I reviewed the remake of Child’s Play for my channel MovieJukie ForLife, I mentioned how I preferred the idea of Chucky being a malfunctioning AI instead of the serial-killer-possesses-a-doll angle. I felt like this change made more sense if you wanted to have a bunch of sequels where the doll kept returning (even after we were told “human” Chucky was mortal). The reason I bring this up is the update to Candyman’s legend makes it possible for multiple people to play the role without negatively affecting the story. It also pays homage to the first (and the best) of them all, Tony Todd, without taking anything away from what Todd did to make the role iconic. Simply put, it was a stroke of genius, and I absolutely loved it.
Candyman 2021 works as a wonderfully-crafted tribute to the original while creating a legend all its own. The twist elements actually work (most tend to cause plot holes a mile long *cough* Malignant *cough*) but not so with this movie. With great visuals, fantastic camera framing and the kind of misdirection that will keep fans of the original on their toes, Nia DaCosta shows marvelous promise in her first high profile film project before helming MCU’s The Marvels next year.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out 10
So what did you think of the new Candyman film? And you can check out more sweet horror reviews below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
Double Tap Baby!