Candyman is kind of an odd-duck in the world of slasher icons. Released at the end of the slasher craze that started with Halloween in 1978, Candyman took an original approach that set it apart from the rest. Loosely structured around the Bloody Mary folk tale, Candyman was set in an existing black neighborhood in Chicago and dealt with the belief in urban legends in a ghetto. The titular character was black himself, which was a novelty at the time and still is today. I can’t come up with another black slasher icon at the top of my head.
This year’s Candyman is labeled a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original. It seems that today writers have two options when tackling a franchise: ignore certain if not all sequels or remake it entirely. Candyman takes the first route as is becoming the standard. Like 2018’s Halloween it ignores all the previous sequels, and it also uses the exact same title which only makes things confusing.
If you remember the 1992 movie, it followed a grad student named Helen Lyle researching the urban legend of Candyman. This story is reminiscent of the Bloody Mary tale in which people say the name multiple times after which the character appears. Long story short: she says his name five times and from that point on she comes under his spell. He toys with her and frames her for a couple of murders he commits. The movie ends up with her becoming Candyman.
Helen Lyle is referenced in 2021’s Candyman on several occasions, but this movie doesn’t follow up on her story. Instead we follow Anthony McCoy, a young artist who finds himself in bit of a artistic dead end. In his search for a subject to work around he comes across the legend of Candyman and the Cabrini-Green Homes; the Chicago housing projects the original movie took place.
While using the Candyman story in his paintings he at one point says the name five times and just like Helen, strange stuff begins to happen around him. People around him are murdered in grisly ways though unlike Helen’s story he isn’t a suspect. He’s also stung by a bee and has a rather disturbing reaction to it, both physically and mentally. The sting causes some inflammation in his hand which goes from bad to worse. Squeamish people will not like the look of the ever worsening wound.
Much like Helen, Anthony has his own descent into becoming Candyman. The character responsible of the exposition mentions there is not just one Candyman. Every generation seems to have his own. In this movie the Candyman is Sherman Fields. A man wrongfully slain by cops when they thought he was responsible for putting razorblades in children’s candy.
In this age of black lives matter and all of the news stories about unarmed black men being shot by white police officers the political aspect of Candyman is undeniable. The movie is very political and to a certain degree divisive even. The movie contains an underlying message of “white people are bad”.
I never became really invested in the movie. Not because of the underlying tone, but more because director Nia DaCosta takes a more art-house approach to creating a horror movie. She likes to keep things vague and suggestive. While there are a couple of gory scenes, most of the Candyman murders either happen off-screen, are obscured by objects or take place in the far distance. It’s an original approach and there are certainly some inventive shots using mirrors, but I do think that a movie about a guy butchering people with a hook should contain scenes that are bit more on the nose.
One compliment I do have to make is that the movie looks absolutely gorgeous. The movie contains beautiful cinematography and a lot shots, despite taking place at night, are really colorful. If anything the movie is a treat to look at, save for the few gory bits.
For me this sequel will not take the place of the original Candyman. That movie is a classic that will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’m pretty sure that this movie will find its audience with a new generation.