The original Candyman has always been what I consider a perfect horror film. I have watched it countless times as I am sure many of you reading this have, and there is absolutely nothing I would change. I love everything about it. The sequels however are another story, while Candyman Farewell to the Flesh makes an honest attempt at being a serious sequel, it is missing the magic that the first one captured so effortlessly. The less said about Candyman 3 Day of the Dead the better. So now almost 30 years later, thanks to the producing clout of Jordan Peele and the stellar direction of Nia DaCosta we are blessed with a new Candyman film. And yes, blessed is the appropriate term to use here because as it turns out, this film is superb. Much like it’s predecessor this is a film about ghosts…and so much more.
I will forever be of the opinions to skip trailers for films you already know you will see. It is always a much more enjoyable and surprising ride when you finally see it. I maybe watched the first 20 seconds of the first trailer for this, so I went in blind and was all the better for it. The way this new film interweaves with the lore of the original is rather brilliant and the ways in which it creates it’s own story that runs parallel to the links to the original are equally fresh and relevant. This film truly honors and respects everything about the original and expands on it’s story and stays true to it’s themes. The moment the opening credits begin, I was grinning ear to ear because they clearly are meant to mirror (no pun intended) or homage the original’s which to this day are some of the most dread inspiring opening credits I ever witnessed as a kid, especially back in 1993, when i first watched it on VHS.
So now that I have clearly sang the films praises for being just what someone like myself who holds the original in high esteem would want out of a NEW Candyman film. Let me also sing praises for the beautiful cinematography by John Guleserian and brilliant direction by DaCosta. The film looks fantastic and the atmosphere it exudes really helps set the tone for the scenes orchestrated and composed by Da Costa which just really elevates the film to where it needs to live up to the title Candyman. I flat out loved the visuals and also just how .
One of the defining characteristics of the original is the absolutely incredible score by Philip Glass. I know he reportedly hated the movie and is not proud of the score, but too bad. It is arguably a top 5 horror score and I would not argue with anyone who says it is the best as I listen to it right now while I write this review. The challenge of creating a new sound for this new iteration of Candyman was tasked to Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and as soon as the opening credits began to unfold on screen, I knew they got the right man for the job. Immediately setting the unsettling tone and bringing a fresh sound that somehow still harkens back to the vibe set by Glass in 1992. Lowe using a myriad of unique instruments and techniques to create his soundscape really does a wonderful job crafting the off kilter sonic landscape that compliments DaCosta and Guleserian’s visuals. I will be picking up this score from Waxwork Records asap tomorrow, soon as it goes on sale as it will make for great October listening (hopefully it arrives in time).
Of course the film would not be what it is without the cast and the 3 major players Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), Teyonah Parris (wandavision), and Colman Domingo (euphoria) are on their A Game. The films themes of racial injustice are heavy just as they were in the original and you can feel the angst and urgency in each of their performances. They are 3 of the best actors working today and we are lucky to have them all on the same screen to add weight to all the supernatural occurrences sure, but in the hands of less capable actors the meat of the story and the weight of the topics of racism and gentrification would not have quite the same impact. They really help this film land it’s punches in the same way Tony Todd, Virgina Madsen, Vanessa Williams and Xander Berkeley did in the first one. All the talent involved in this new Candyman really came together to be the film I hoped it would when I first saw that they were on board. I would be wrong not to mention Nathan Stewart-Jarrett who steals every scene he is in and had the crowd cracking up throughout.
Now I know this is a spoiler free review so while there is so much I could and would love to get in depth about when it comes to the themes and spirit of the film. I really just want to leave that up to you all to experience first hand. The one thing I will say is that for me, the most unique thing about the original was the setting of Cabrini Green. I have written in depth about it’s haunting history in the past and I was most happy to see that it is still a main character in this film in some way. As kids for better or worse, everyone knew about Cabrini Green thanks to Candyman. The projects were a character all themselves in that film. The imposing and ominous towers stood above it all with the Chicago skyline seemingly so close yet still so far in the background. For me it was very satisfying to see it’s real life fate and the subsequent gentrification of where it once stood, be a fitting and crucial plot point in this new film. It is not often a sequel comes along 30 years later and can use real life changes in the setting to tell it’s important and worthy story. But it is done so well here, I was very happy with that aspect of it.
I have seen some people say the film isn’t scary, and for me calling something scary is quite subjective at this age. Everyone has a different definition of scary. For me, scary is how creepy something is or if I get chills watching it. I think Candyman has some solid eerie and chilling moments that I truly loved and I also think the best thing I could say about it is how after I left the theater, it stayed with me, and made me uneasy while I did normal everyday things. Walking to my car in the garage after the movie at night, waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and feeling uneasy while glancing at the mirror, and even yesterday morning, getting out of the elevator and seeing a lone bee on the ground as if it was waiting for me. All these things creeped me out and unnerved me and that is because of the uneasy feeling the film left me with, similar to the feeling I had almost 30 years ago when I had to walk home late at night by myself from my friend Joey’s house after watching the original for the first time on VHS. These things to me are all sign of a great horror film, and all we as Candyman fans could have asked for from those involved is that they revere the source material they are basing their film on with the same love and respect that we have for what is a true horror classic. To me, it is clear they absolutely do and they absolutely were up to the task of crafting a true sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time. I left the theater feeling exhilarated because I was so happy they “got it” and that these creative minds clearly were impacted the same way i was and wanted to tell a quality story and honor the classic at the same time. Candyman 2021 feels like the true and rightful spiritual and actual sequel to Candyman 92 and that fact alone for me means the filmmaker’s mission was accomplished.
Some people may be turned off by the discussions of race relations, police brutality and segregation and gentrification. Some of those people will have it lost on them that the original film they claim they love is all about those same themes. The rest of those people will just hate the fact that the movie may force them to look in a mirror, will they dare say it 5 times?
I wrote an article about Cabrini Green about 4 years ago in 2017 and how it’s true life horrors inspired many of the on screen stories for the original Candyman film. But it also touched on the good things as well that happened in Cabrini. It is probably the article I am most proud of and I hope if you have not read it yet, you check it out. The link is just below.