Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, horror, suicide & content that may disturb
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna “Bri” Cartwrigh
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William “Billy” Burke
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Director: Nia DaCosta
For decades, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were terrorized by a ghost story about a supernatural, hook-handed killer. In present day, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) begins to explore the macabre history of Candyman, not knowing it would unravel his sanity and unleash a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.
I was looking forward to the new Candyman movie, the original film was a horror classic and for very good reason. The 2021 film had some very talented people involved from Jordan Peele as one of the writers, to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the lead actor, and I really liked the looks from the trailers. I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and while I definitely have issues, I do like it on the whole.
Before watching Candyman (2021) I highly recommend watching the original Candyman released in 1992, because there’s callbacks and references which won’t hit the same way if you haven’t seen it. This latest Candyman is very much a sequel set decades later, and you’ll get more out of it if you’ve seen the first film (on top of it being a really good film that’s well worth seeing). Plotwise the premise is initially similar as the protagonist is trying to uncover the local legend of the Candyman. It starts off well with a good setup, so I had a good feeling about it initially. I liked the horror elements, and I particularly liked how it made an effort to build upon the mythology of the Candyman as established in the original. However I have to say that overall the script has a lot of issues and is easily the thing that holds the film back from being great. First of all, the actual writing is mixed with some wonky dialogue, out of place humour and generally dull characters. Storywise it is a bit of a mess too, I wouldn’t say I was bored but there were some dull moments. The film introduces a lot of subplots but they don’t go anywhere and most of them aren’t concluded properly. The same goes for the character arcs, its almost like the film is a bit rushed or cut down. By the end much of the story felt underdeveloped and the conclusion was rushed, and so I felt unsatisfied. Candyman 2021 is way too short at 90 minutes long, it should’ve been much longer to flesh things out.
Another aspect of the writing worth talking about is the themes. Like the original film there’s a lot of social and political commentary, and I was interested how the movie would handle them. The 2021 film has some particularly timely and relevant themes its working with, including gentrification and police brutality. Unfortunately the way they handled the themes was a bit messy to say the least. It’s very blunt and on the nose, and it’s not inherently bad to be less subtle about it. However it’s to the degree where the film tells the audience about the themes. Candyman (2021) is definitely more into telling over showing. Instead of allowing the audience to interpret the themes of the film, it has characters literally talk about them. Not only that but they try to cram so many ideas into this one movie (a particularly short movie at that) and while that is certainly bold and ambitious, it doesn’t really succeed. By the end it touches on a lot of topics but doesn’t really explore them or end up saying much by the end, which was disappointing.
There’s some good acting in this film. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in the lead role here, and he’s great as to be expected. Teyonah Parris was good in her part, Colman Domingo was also good, although his character’s arc felt cut short. Outside of those three however, there’s some bad supporting roles and weak side performances.
This is the first movie I’ve seen from Nia DaCosta, but she’s definitely shown herself to be a great filmmaker here. The film is visually striking and stunning with beautiful cinematography and camerawork. Some of the best scenes of the movie were sequences that made use of cutout puppetry animation, often used for exposition, I loved the presentation of them. It does a fairly decent job at building up its atmosphere and tension. The horror is great with some well staged death scenes, although the use of CGI is a little distracting. Finally the score is eerie and haunting, really setting an effective mood throughout.
Candyman (2021) is in some ways rather disappointing. It had some good ideas but with its script it felt both overstuffed and undercooked, and it is holding back much of the film. With that said I still think it’s good, from the main performances to Nia DaCosta’s impressive direction. If you watched the original Candyman and liked it, I do think this new film is worth checking out.