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Review: Candyman (2021)

Candyman (2021)

Directed by: Nia DaCosta

Premise: A sequel to the 1992 film. Returning to the Chicago neighborhood of the original movie, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) creates paintings about the urban myth of the Candyman and people around him begin to die.

What Works: There have been two previous Candyman sequels but the 2021 film is a direct follow-up to the original picture and it plays as both a companion piece to the 1992 film and a deliberately alternate take on the material. The reversal is evident right from the beginning. The opening credit sequence of 1992’s Candyman consisted of an extremely high angle tracking shot of the Chicago cityscape, looking down at the streets from the sky. The opening of the 2021 sequel reverses the image, with the camera on the streets facing skyward. It’s a neat visualization of the different approach the filmmakers bring to this material. The original Candyman had a racial subtext. The myth of the Candyman was rooted in racial violence and the scares were premised on white fears of black inhabited housing projects. The 2021 film flips the perspective and brings the subtext forward with an emphasis on black characters living in a gentrified neighborhood. The movie is quite smart about this and 2021’s Candyman offers a fresh take on the material that is still germane to the original concept.

What Doesn’t: The emphasis on racial politics comes at the cost of the storytelling. Candyman is a horror film. Its job is to frighten the audience and this film simply doesn’t do that. This is partly a fault of the set pieces. The scares don’t come often enough and the sequences aren’t staged in ways that build tension. The pacing of the movie is off and the filmmakers struggle to create an atmosphere of dread. The tone is scattershot, at times going for paranoia but at other points playing for dark comedy. The movie comes across disjointed; the story isn’t building toward its climax and the humor undermines the terror. The score especially misses the mark. Philip Glass’ music for the original Candyman is one of the finest and most effective horror scores. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s score for the 2021film is generic and doesn’t build atmosphere or punctuate the scares. The resolution of 2021’s Candyman is also a problem. It’s a political statement that doesn’t make much internal sense. Instead of clarifying the film’s approach to the material it ends up muddling both the racial politics and the story.

Bottom Line: 2021’s Candyman is a mixed effort. Academics will likely embrace the movie because it’s a thoughtful film that offers a lot to unpack but Candyman falls short on narrative coherence and the visceral thrills becoming of a horror picture. 

Episode: #867 (September 5, 2021)