In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony and his partner move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence.
This spiritual Candyman sequel to the original 1992 film is many things, whether that was the original intention or not. On the surface, it’s the next new horror film with a Black-led cast, which is quite unusual for this type of genre. It also contains messages of racism/white supremacy thrown in as a teaching lesson whether it’s subtle or overt. It’s filmed well and slightly entertaining, while also being a jumbled mess of things that may leave you conflicted and having difficulties trying to comprehend the overall complexities of all the hidden language that’s thrown all over the wall. Reactions to this film will be mixed between races, and your enjoyment may only depend on your expectations of receiving a great horror film or whether you need a forced history lesson on gentrification.
What’s phenomenal about this film is how it ties itself to the first film. Whether you’ve seen the original or not, this film is easy to follow and fills in the blanks if you haven’t seen what came before. It should go without saying that if you have seen the original it will enhance your experience, but that’s the beauty of it though. It isn’t necessary to have seen it and that just goes to show how great the transitions were from scene to scene and how the parts of this story were told by director Nia DaCosta (The Marvels).
DaCosta is also a genius behind the camera with the way she frames all of her shots. The way she centers in on a vantage point with the lead protagonist in the middle of the street speaks volumes, putting everything in great perspective. It seems simple yet is also eerie since as a supposed horror film it keeps you on edge that something is awry. The way she shoots her figures looking up to give them a strong-looking stance of authority, or shoots down on others to represent an image of power was also remarkable.
The soundtrack/score used in the film is very effective as well. It sets the necessary tone that’s needed in some scenes to give the film the thrill to excite any audience member. The legend of the Candyman mystery is quite compelling too. The way the overall lore ties in with past historical racial atrocities in America was spot-on genius. It was a free history lesson and shines a light on all the trauma Black people have and still go through in this country. This message was very apparent during the ending credits as well.
Now earlier I stated that this is a supposed horror movie. The reason being is unfortunately this film isn’t scary at all in the slightest. This is coming from an admitted scaredy-cat who tends to stay away from horror, but there was no time in this film where I was made uncomfortable by the next potential jump scare or felt my skin crawling as I usually do. Whether something is scary or not is subjective, but it definitely felt like something to enable fright was missing here.
The three Black male leads in this film were not likeable at all either. The film could’ve done a much better job of making the audience empathize or even sympathize with the main lead, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), but that seems impossible with the way he’s written. This is especially due to his lack of common sense skills. When it’s blatantly obvious that he needs to go to the hospital he doesn’t, and the film gives no explanation on why this important decision is ignored. He’s also extremely selfish, not attentive to loved ones, and is very insensitive. When tragedy strikes, he doesn’t care at all and is more concerned with his own name recognition. It’s very distasteful. Brianna (Teyonah Parris) is the only redeemable character in the film, but her brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is another one on the bad list. He’s just a weak frail man with nothing to offer the film other than himself being annoying. When an opportunity comes for him to show strength and that he will defend close members of his family, the film makes it clear he’s not up for the job and delegates that authority to someone else. Then last but not least, Williams (Colman Domingo) literally just goes nuts and loses his mind for no apparent justifiable reason.
Another missed opportunity in this film was how it handled the gratuitous nature of all the killings. They’re all done offscreen, and you can’t see any of them. That wasn’t the case in the original film. This time when someone summons the demon, you can only hear the deaths and barely see the aftermath with blood splattered everywhere. At times it doesn’t even feel like a horror film but instead contains so much social commentary about the lives of Black people and gentrification that it becomes annoying. This would be fine if the plot paid off into fruition of being sensible, but it doesn’t. The ending is rushed and police brutality is thrown in out of nowhere just for the sake of it.
Candyman had so much potential to be a film that could stand the test of time. The runtime is only ninety minutes long and needed another fifteen to twenty minutes to flesh the story out with all of its real-world themes. That doesn’t happen as it jump skips to the end and tries to wrap everything up nicely and fails. Focus on the horror and the lore of Candyman and not trying to send a message that is shoehorned in. The ending of this film felt so lazy it’s embarrassing. I can’t remember the last time a character switch happened so abruptly as in this film and considers itself a win. There is a brief moment of justice, and if that was left out this could easily be considered one of the worst endings ever. On top of that, this film barely even has Candyman elements in the present-day scenes. Plotlines are left unaddressed, and there are undertones that Black people are stuck here on earth to suffer and can only receive justice or our reward in heaven after death. Reminds me of slavery, and that’s nothing that I want to revisit in any capacity.