Horror movies have always served as a vehicle for social and political commentary. From the critiques of capitalism in They Live to the effects of an abusive relationship in The Invisible Man, horror reflects the socioeconomic and and interpersonal struggles of the time. In some cases the same topic can span decades, primarily because the underlying cause never goes away. In Candyman's case, that issue is racism and white supremacy. Serving as a direct sequel to the original 1992 film, Candyman is a fantastic continuation of the mythos, even if it does have a few hiccups. Let's dive into the review and, just so you don't get mad at me in the comments, this is your official spoiler warning.
As I mentioned earlier, Candyman is a direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name. Originally this film was supposed to release in June of 2020 but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the film kept getting pushed back until it finally release in September of 2021. I had my eye on this film since it was first announced, partly because I love the original Candyman and partly because Jordan Peele was writing the script and was attached as a producer. For those of you who may not know, I'm a huge fan of Peele's directorial debut Get Out as well as his follow-up Us, so knowing that he was attached in any capacity was enough to get me excited. Additionally, the film is directed by Nia DaCosta, who saw her directorial debut in 2018 with the absolutely beautiful Little Woods. On top of all of that, there was a lot of "buzz" (sorry, I couldn't resist) that Tony Todd was coming back to reprise the roll of the titular killer and while that is technically true, it was slightly disappointing, but more on that later. Candyman also holds a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an impressive critic approval rate of 84% as well as 73% approval from audiences.
Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy who, along with his girlfriend Brianna played by Teyonah Parris move to the now gentrified Cabrini Green 30 years after the events of the original film. McCoy is an artist who has fallen into kind of a slump and is searching for a spark to reignite his career. He eventually runs into William Burke, a long time resident of Cabrini Green who tells him about the Candyman legend by recounting an experience he had as a child that involved an innocent man being shot by police. McCoy uses this story as his inspiration and creates a piece called Say My Name which inadvertently results in Candyman returning and killing some people. Through some twists and turns we end up learning that McCoy is the baby from the original film that Helen saved from being sacrificed by Candyman in the original film. Through some more twists and turns we find out that there have been multiple versions of Candyman from various people who have been murdered over the years and that the Candyman we see primarily in this film is the same man who was shot by police in Burke's youth. Burke, knowing who McCoy is, kidnaps him and saws off his right hand, replacing it with a hook. He also calls the police knowing that when they arrive, they will likely shoot McCoy as they think he is the one responsible for the recent murders centered around his art. Burke does this in an attempt to turn Candyman from a symbol of black suffering to a tool of vengeance. As Brianna is trying to save him, the cops do indeed arrive and murder McCoy. Brianna then summons Candyman who now appears in the guise of McCoy who murders the police officers. At the end of the film as more police are arriving, we see McCoy's face transform into that of the original Candyman who instructs Brianna to "tell everyone" about him.
This is what I meant when I said Tony Todd is technically in the film. He appears for of all of about 10 seconds, right at the very end. It's a little disappointing, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. Overall I thought the story for this movie was really good, but it suffers from run time. This is a 90 minute movie. It moves at a pretty brisk pace where the original had time to breathe and stretch out the tension. I think Candyman would have benefited from closer to a 2 hour run time because as it stands the ending feels really rushed. However, the movie more than makes up for that with it's superb direction, cinematography, and for the most part, acting. There is one side character in this movie who I absolutely hate and might actually be the worst actor I've ever seen, but thankfully he dies pretty early and his screen time is limited. This movie rests primarily on the shoulders of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and he absolutely carries this movie. I loved every second of his performance and although she isn't on screen nearly as much, Teyonah Parris is a fantastic opposite.
The real star of the show though is Candyman, and he's handled very well in this movie, possibly better than the original. As the legend goes, you have to say his name 5 times in a mirror to summon him, and when he appears, you see him almost entirely through reflections. They keep him hidden very well for most of the film and the way they use mirrors to show him is incredibly effective. The movie also has frequent sequences of shadow puppetry that you'd think would feel out of place but work so well in this movie and add an extra layer of creepiness and poignancy to the film, especially during the end credit reel.
Overall, 2021's Candyman is both a fantastic sequel and a strong film in its own right. If you haven't seen it I strongly urge that you do, and if you have seen it leave me a comment down below and tell me your thoughts!