The spectre of the Candyman hangs over everything. And by extension his original incarnation of Daniel Robitaille played Tony Todd.

2021’s Candyman is a Force Awakens style legacy sequel to the original 1992 Candyman film. If one spends the film waiting for the original cast to show up, one may be disappointed, but this Candyman expands on the mythology in interesting and unique ways. Also, it makes a social commentary a thematic thing in the series. Still, the point of this or any previous Candyman film are the freaky scenes featuring the big bad running around with a hook hand and taking unsuspecting chumps out.
Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a struggling artist trying to get more people to engage with his art, although his girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris) just wants him to be happy. One night he hears the legend of a woman who went on a murder spree almost 30 years ago which inspires him to check out where it happened and he meets a friendly and chatty guy, Burke (Coleman Domingo). He tells Anthony about the legend of the Candyman (Michael Hargrove), a demonic hook-handed spectral appearance that has been terrorizing people for decades whenever someone conjures Candyman by saying his name five times in a mirror. Naturally, Anthony says it, leading him down a path of ruin, bloodshed, and disfiguration. As he uncovers more about the history of the Candyman, bodies start to pile up.

The spectre of the Candyman hangs over everything. And by extension his original incarnation of Daniel Robitaille played Tony Todd. The film cleverly expands upon the Candyman legend, although talking about him so much makes the audience want to see the original version. Tony Todd has an incredible baritone voice so not using him to his full potential here is a shame. Even the voice-overs of the trailers had more of Tony Todd as Candyman than the final movie. The final shot of the movie does eventually tie both films together which is satisfying if a bit of a tease. Most of the Candyman action here is with a new character, Sherman (Hargrove). He has an impressive physicality which adds slasher jolts and has a tragically compelling backstory. Multiple incarnations of Candyman are impressively creepy but they inevitably pale when compared to the OG. Another original character, Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) returns to dispense family secrets. It seems whatever decade it is, Anne-Marie has a bad time in Candyman movies.
Domingo ties the larger narrative together with great storytelling scenes where he reveals the history of Candyman as people over the years have been brutally murdered by systemic oppression. A resonant line that Domingo delivers the hell out of is when he says “Candyman is how we deal with the fact that these things happen. That they’re still happening.” Later, Domingo goes even more unhinged, veering towards over the top but enjoyable. He gets in a meta quip about how whenever Candyman shows up, details change but certain essential things must remain the same as he does gruesome stuff. Both movies are sort of about the power of urban legends; this is shown at beginning when someone relates the events of the first film but gets a lot of key details wrong. A lot of flashbacks are played out with extremely creepy shadow puppetry that is effectively disturbing, adding to the mythical feel. This is especially powerful during the end credits when the origins of various Candyman entities are revealed via puppetry.

There’s a bit of a remake feel here as in both movies the main characters are slowly going batty as multiple Candyman murders happen around them. Abdul-Mateen as Anthony plays a fine line between a likeable guy and a person going legitimately nuts. When he finds out about the Candyman having brutally murdered some of his artistic contemporaries at his exhibit he’s initially just happy his name was mentioned. Later, he basically goads someone to invoking Candyman just to see what happens. There’s also a body horror element that starts with a bee sting that gets gross and infected as it goes in, symbolizing the rot inside of him and the system that lets horrible things happen. By the end, he’s fully embraced Candyman and his moments of unleashing are pretty cool. As his girlfriend, Parris just has to sort of look horrified the whole time but she gets a great bit at the end when she deliberately chooses to invoke Candyman to suitably nasty results.
Some of the violence is appropriately messy, like Candyman’s first attack on two dopes. There are also scenes of implied violence which are executed well. A great scene is when dopey high school girls invoke Candyman together and most of the bloodshed is shown through the reflection of a dropped makeup mirror which is original and keeps with the mirror motif. Another cool implied bit is when one person gets killed by Candyman in a wide shot that slowly pulls away from an apartment complex.
Candyman is an interesting continuation of the original film, although it does sort of tread close to being a remake and somewhat frustratingly teases out characters from the original that never quite appear. But it has an interesting social commentary that the spectre of racial injustice can appear and shred anyone to death. It doesn’t make Candyman a hero, instead it adds multiple layers to the urban legend.
4 stars
Director: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, and Kyle Kaminsky

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