Review: Candyman (2021)

Premiere Impressions

Admittedly, I was late to the Candyman party. To be fair to me, I was not born when the original hit theaters (#youngandsupple), but I saw the film for the first time just a couple of Halloweens ago. If the original Candyman is anything it is fascinating. It is creepily atmospheric and features interesting, if confused, politics. If you have not seen the 1992 film, I highly recommend you give it a watch before you head to the theater for 2021’s update. Thanks to surehanded direction from Nia DaCosta, the new Candyman is even better than the original.

2021’s Candyman takes place in the gentrified Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago, the setting for the 1992 film. The film centers on Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist whose artistic passion is reignited by his growing obsession with the legend of the Candyman. His girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), must balance her boyfriend’s obsession with her own rise in the art world. As McCoy becomes more invested in the legacy of the Candyman, a series of ghastly murders occurs throughout the neighborhood.

The success of the film is undoubtedly a credit to DaCosta’s direction. Each creative choice works together to communicate the film’s breadth of ideas. This is easily apparent from the beginning of the film, where the opening credits unfold in a series of extreme high-angle shots. Are we viewing the world from the point of view of the characters? Are we in a reflected world like the ones Candyman haunts? Do the towering urban structures reflect the enormity of gentrification? An argument can be made for any of these ideas, and that is one of the film’s greatest achievements—it provokes thought throughout the entire viewing experience.

Surprisingly, the film is actually a direct sequel to 1992’s film. Following the legacyquel tradition of Scream 4 (2011) and Halloween (2018), Candyman engages familiar lore to directly address social issues—the social slasher, if you will. Now, the sheer number of ideas in Candyman is a bit unwieldly—there might be too much to digest for some viewers—but all of these themes center on contemporary issues for black Americans. Every viewer will probably tease out the thread that resonates with them most, but for me, this is a film about challenging whiteness. Let me illuminate with some spoilers.

**Spoilers, girl***

In a high school bathroom scene, a group of white girls say Candyman’s name in a mirror five times to summon him. One of the girls learned of the Candyman legend at an art show (where the curator intentionally exploits the pain of its black artist). The girl then takes the legend to her clique and, because she uses it without respect, is punished by Candyman. The Candyman figure does not serve as horrifying boogeyman, but as a reminder of the consequences of white disrespect.

***Spoilers over, girl***

Post-Screening Snippets

  • The performances are stellar, particularly from Parris and Colman Domingo (if you do not recognize his name, he’s that guy who is great in everything)
  • Rainbow Alert: there are gays in this movie and they rock
  • Thank God for Jordan Peele

The Final Tea

Candyman is sure to end up on several “Best of 2021” lists come the year’s end. I haven’t stopped thinking about the film since I left the theater, and I don’t plan to any time soon (except of course when I walk by a mirror and pray I forget about the movie for just a moment so I can go back to gazing upon my own reflection without paranoia).


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