Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman – Say His Name {Movie Review}

Courstey of Universal

First, let me start off by saying PLEASE go to Rotten Tomatoes right now and read the reviews by Black critics on Candyman (2021). Those are the reviews what you sould read first, especially after you’ve seen the new movie and the 1992 OG version. Those critics can offer a take on this franchise that well, I really can’t. That said, after seeing the movie, I can’t stop thinking about it, both the good and the bad.

In Nia DaCosta’s “spirtual sequel,” Chicago’s Cabrini-Green is a gentrified neighborhood complete with high rises, Whole Foods, and hipster art galleries. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Anthony McCoy, an artist stuck in a serious rut, rehasing the same social/political art that he’s created for the last few years. After his girlfriend’s brother tells him the story of Candyman, he becomes obsessed with the urban legend and visits what remains of the projects, photographing graffettied walls while smashed glass crunches under his Converse. Colman Domingo plays old timer William Burke, who explains the lore and fuels Anthony’s obsession. He’s one of the last remanents of the Cabrini-Green projects and has one of the best bits of dialogue about an hour into the film about what Candyman is. In DaCosta’s film, he’s not only Tony Todd’s character. He’s a metaphor for Black oppression and violence, taking on many different faces and stories. “He’s the whole damn hive,” to quote Domingo’s character. Yet, even if DaCosta expands the lore, she doesn’t erase the story of Todd’s character or the events surrounding Helen (Virginia Madsen) from the first film. They are referenced quite a bit but placed in a larger, interesting context.

Teyonah Parris plays Brianna, Anthony’s girlfriend who also hustles around the art scene and is pretty much responsible for landing Anthony shows. As his behavior grows increasingly erratic and even dangerous, Brianna, of course, becomes alarmed. One of my main gripes about this film is that Brianna isn’t given a whole lot to do. There is major family trauma revealed through a flashback, but it’s just sort of…dropped. That’s a storyline that needed much more room to breathe. It’s utterly wasted potential. Further, Anthony isn’t given much depth beyond the brushtrocks and serving as a vessel, a body for Candyman to increasingly possess.

The film’s other main issue is the script, especially the last act. So much happens in the last 20-30 minutes that it will make your head spin. Not all of it makes sense. This film probably would have done better with a two hour runtime, as opposed to 90 minutes. There are too many ideas crammed into this movie, everything from gentrification, to Candyman’s lore, to police violence. The film never becomes didactic, but some of the ideas simply feel too thin, mere sketches than a fully realized story. That said, the first half of the film especially has some dazzling visuals. The kills astonish, especially the mirror motif. One bathroom sequence involving high school girls is one of the most innovative scenes in horror that I’ve witnessed all year. DaCosta is one heck of a filmmaker, and I can’t wait to see what she does with a project that isn’t saddled with so much backstory and history.

Overall, Candyman (2021) has some really great moments and a few cameos that I won’t mention because I want people to be surprised. I’m still thinking about it 24 hours after I saw it, and I suspect I’ll be thinking about it for some days to come yet. The visuals are strunning and the way that both Candyman and Cabrini-Green are expanded in the context of this franchise are fasicnating. This film is in conversation with the origional while managing to take some inventive leaps. That said, the narrative falters quite a bit as it rushes towards its conclusion.

Now, please, go to RT and check out those other reviews.

Candyman Reboot?

The horror world has been abuzz over the news that Jordan Peele is interested in remaking Candyman, the 1992 film about a murdered slave, Candyman (Tony Todd), who will appear if you repeat his name in the mirror. It’s unclear if Peele would actually direct the film or produce it, but regardless, though Candyman is not that old, its themes of gentrification and the past never staying dead are deserving of an update. After the success of Get Out, Peele is the right person to  oversee the project if it moves forward.

Candyman is a film that I really like and recently re-watched. Directed by Bernard Rose and based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” it is  atmospheric and haunting. Set in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing project, as opposed to Liverpool, the setting of Barker’s story, the film is moody and deals with issues of class, race, and gentrification without being preachy or over-the-top. Of the filming location and housing project, Rose said that it is “an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear.” Yet, who and what are we supposed to fear? These are questions the film asks. The protagonist, Helen Lye (Virginia Madsen), is a white graduate student interested in researching folk tales and myths, which brings her to the housing project and the history of the Candyman myth. Her arrival poses a lot of questions. Is she merely using the housing project and its impoverished residents to further her own agenda? Would she bother to care about any of the residents if not for her research and her personal goal of academic noteriety? Regardless, Helen forces her way into the housing project, snapping photo after photo, taking what she needs in the process. Residents clearly know that she doesn’t belong, but that doesn’t stop her from invading their space. At one point, she literary crawls through a hidden hole to enter another apartment where a murder occurred.

Helen

(Helen played by Virginia Madsen)

Candyman’s story, meanwhile, uses tropes found throughout African American literature and film. He is a murdered slave who fell in love with a white woman and was brutally killed as a result. The past, so to speak, never really stays dead, and once Candyman is summoned, he seeks revenge with a bloody hook hand, while speaking in suave Victorian language.  Tony Todd’s performance is one of the real highlights of the film, and it would be hard to find someone to top him.

 

candyman-movie.jpg

(Candyman played by Tony Todd)

It is unclear how quickly production will move forward with a Candyman remake, if it happens at all; however, Jordan Peele is the right person to produce or direct the project. Get Out shows that he has a clear understanding of class and race, specifically how they are intertwined. Candyman does not necessarily need a remake, but I would be interested to see Peele’s take.