September 21, 2021

Review: “Candyman” Returns in a Visual (and Visceral) Rebootquel

Horror sequels that feature a more modern take on the source material while simultaneously continuing the story begun by the original are nothing new. Leprechaun Returns, Halloween, Spiral (and, to a lesser extent, Wrong Turn) have all thrown their hats into the ring, with Scream, Texas Chainsaw and Jeepers Creepers all set to continue the tradition in coming years. Of course, the strategy makes sense — it needs to be accessible for new audiences, while also satisfying for longtime fans. It’s a tough balance to strike.

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (also continuing the trend of having the same name as the original) isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is it a reboot? Is it a sequel? Does it want to maintain its unique spin on the villain, or keep reminding its viewers of the original killer, played by the incomparable Tony Todd?

As a standalone movie, Candyman is absolutely fantastic. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II gives another star turn as Anthony McCoy, a struggling artist living in the now-gentrified neighborhood of Cabrini Green, a prominent setting of the original Candyman. He becomes obsessed with the local legend of the titular hook-wielding murderer, even incorporating it into his art pieces.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a horror movie if terrible things didn’t start happening, but these events are particularly interesting because we are never given the definitive answers that we might have wanted. There’s some explanation, of course, but Candyman leaves a lot out, maybe a side effect of its breezy 90-minute runtime. Short movies like this shouldn’t be able to afford to waste any time, given the brevity of the time it has to tell the story. It feels like Candyman knows it will get a sequel, so they are holding off revealing portions of the central mystery (made even more convoluted by the ending) until the inevitable follow-up arrives. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also titled Candyman.

Its continuity with the original does produce some fun surprises, but generally Candyman can’t help but keep reminding its audience of those connections. Any who’ve seen the trailers know that Anthony may or may not have a spiritual relation to the Candyman, and the movie uses this for some admittedly cool callbacks. Its reliance on nostalgia, though, sometimes overshadows what it’s trying to accomplish.

Candyman certainly has ideas, but perhaps it’s not entirely sure how to go about executing them. Some themes are too on-the-nose, and others are only hinted at. Co-writer/producer Jordan Peele’s presence can be felt, but I don’t think Candyman goes for its social themes and messages as much as it could have (this, I feel, is another sacrifice due to the short runtime). However, further research after viewing has made me appreciate this aspect more — but I feel like the movie itself could have gone further down some roads it chose to only glance at.

Despite all this, though, I really did enjoy Candyman. The performances, especially Mateen, Teyonah Parris (playing Anthony’s girlfriend Brianna) and the underrated Colman Domingo, are absolutely incredible, and the movie provides decent scares and a delicious amount of gore to satiate those who enjoy it. It’s indecisive about its own mythology (especially in regards to its predecessor) and doesn’t know how to explain it in a clear way, which can get in the way of concise storytelling. As a movie, though, it’s a perfectly enjoyable experience.

Just don’t say his name into the mirror five times if you’re looking for a better sequel, or a better reboot. Save for its final scene, Candyman plays it safe, much more of a slasher than its predecessor and much less of a dreamlike fantasy. [Grade: B+]

Director: Nia DaCosta
Writers: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Rated: R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references
Available: On Demand
Fun Fact: With its first week in theaters, Nia DaCosta became the first black female director to have a movie in the #1 box office spot.

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