An accomplished horror reboot with a sting in its tale
What is it with Hollywood and horror reboots? Halloween, Scream, and Resident Evil have all received updated incarnations in recent years and now Candyman joins the list of movie franchises that have been given a fresh lease of life.
Bernard Rose’s 1992 original, an adaption of the novel by Clive Barker, was one of the best horror movies of its time and far better than the sequels that followed. It didn’t necessarily need another follow-up but courtesy of Nia DaCosta (Little Woods), we have been given one anyway. Thankfully, it’s not a lazy retread of what has come before as DaCosta makes a valiant attempt at doing something new with the Candyman mythology and for the most part, she delivers an entertaining horror piece that should please fans of the earlier film.
This one tells the story of Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an aspiring artist who moves into the now gentrified Cabrini Green with his partner, Brianna (Teyonah Parris). After learning of the Candyman legend, he uses what he has heard for his next art piece but in doing so, he opens himself up to a past terror that breaks through into the present.
If you come to this expecting a continuation of Tony Todd’s version of Candyman, you might be disappointed. He does make a cameo of sorts but the legend of the horror icon has been updated to include Sherman Fields, an innocent hook-handed man who was murdered by the police in the 1970s. This is the catalyst for a new version of the iconic figure whose name we dare not speak five times in front of the mirror and he becomes the focus of Anthony’s attention (and his visions) as he works on his next piece of art.
The point of the update is clear: racism still exists. In the 19th century, artist Daniel Robitaille was resurrected as the original Candyman after being horrifically murdered by white supremacists for daring to fall in love with a white woman. In 2021, nothing has changed as there are still those who use their authority to murder people within the Black community. Jordan Peele, who produces this movie, is clearly interested in holding a mirror up to the racism that exists in our society, as he previously incorporated racial themes into the works of horror that he directed.
Still, while this movie does play with themes related to the real-life horrors of racism, this is also a horror movie in the traditional sense. People still get murdered by Candyman when they pluck up the courage to chant his name so this is as much a slasher movie as social commentary. Interestingly though, we don’t always get to see the hook-handed killer. As people are ripped apart by his makeshift hand, he remains invisible, which may have something to do with the fact that he exists in a mirror dimension that only his victims can see.
The direction and acting are all above average here so this is a quality production through and through. Candyman’s kills are all stylishly shot and DaCosta manages to do something original with each one of them. Abdul-Mateen II is terrific as the artist whose works of art are rejected and as his fate becomes entwined with that of the Candyman, he manages to showcase different sides of his character as he evolves throughout the film.
If you have seen the 1992 movie, you will be glad to know that this reboot/sequel ties in well. It might focus on a different telling of the Candyman legend but there is more than one connection to Bernard Rose’s original. It would be wrong of me to go into specifics here as it’s advisable that you watch it if you want to know the sting in the tale, but needless to say, you should be satisfied by the revelations that are weaved into the plotting.
There is much to admire in this macabre movie, from the social relevance to the stylish bloodletting, and it is far more intelligent than many of the other horror movies that jostle for space on our streaming watchlists. I’m not sure if it’s better than its gruesome forebear but it manages to match it at times in terms of underlying menace and heartbreaking tragedy.
Still, as good as this movie is, there shouldn’t be another sequel. Hollywood execs shouldn’t dredge up Candyman five more times in an effort to cash in on this superior horror.
Some horror sequels are surprisingly good but as was the case with the sequels that followed the first Candyman movie, there are also those that are horrifyingly bad. Michael Myers’ power to chill has long been diluted so let’s not heap the same fate on Candyman who deserves to rest in peace now that he has made a triumphant last stand.
Verdict - 7.5/10