Review: Candyman (2021)

  • Director: Nia DaCosta
  • Writer: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
  • Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett,

Review

A self proclaimed spiritual sequel to the 1992 film, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman takes an already great story and transforms it into something even more timely and, dare I say, better executed. In no way am I saying that Bernard Rose didn’t do an outstanding job, but watching his film now, you can see how he and Barker (both credited as writers) tiptoed around the very thing that makes Candyman so unique: the racial inequity that is not only the impetus for the legend, but also the thing that keeps it alive and well.

DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld and Jordan Peele (all credited as screenwriters) don’t utilize the Candyman as a singular person, but rather, when William Burke (Colman Domingo) says, “Candyman ain’t a he. Candyman is the whole damn hive,” he is speaking to the history of Black people being treated abhorrently throughout history. This distinction brings a new, larger scope to the legend and makes it feel especially real. This isn’t just one man betrayed who continues to prey upon people who are crazy/brave enough to conjure him by saying his name five times: this is an invocation that looks to wreak havoc on behalf of all Black people who have been done wrong.

Housing and income disparity are all at play here and very much a part of the legend of Candyman. While a plight that is not new to the people who live it, this very real problem is only recently being recognized by the pubic at large. Couple this with the characters in the film being directly affected by so many obvious and not so obvious racial realities, Candyman is absolutely reflecting the world we live in and it makes no apologies for it. In the 92 version, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a white savior of sorts who has a token Black friend. Bernadette, Candyman and the people living in the Cabrini Green area are the only Black people in the film. With the exception of Bernadette, all of the Black people in the original Candyman are depicted in a less than stellar light: thank goodness Helen is around to to pad her academic resume on the back of their mere existence. And quite frankly, the love story aspect just makes it feel even cheaper and less brave. While I still cower at the existence of a mirror, I definitely prefer this new Candyman over the one who is pining over a woman.

At the risk of ruining a lot of the truly amazing things the writers did in the film, I will instead commend the body horror aspect, the truly inventive way they married both the original and new stories together and the various cinema influences DaCosta uses to tell a truly scary and heartbreaking story. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy is absolutely stunning on every level. His emotions are, at times, palpable and every choice he makes is maddeningly understandable. The kills in the film are an achievement as well: while a scene in a girls restroom is an undeniable standout, for me, the Rear Window moment was my absolute favorite.

Respecting and honoring the original, while setting up for a sequel, that I will absolutely be in line for, Candyman is the real deal in horror. It can be viewed in a nonchalant, movie watching way or it can be dissected and looked at for all of the things that it accomplishes. I realize that yet another white woman commenting on a movie that is predominantly Black and speaks on the Black experience is probably not what the world needs, but I can tell you that you do need this spiritual sequel in your life.

Lisa Fremont

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