CANDYMAN (2021) review – Mirror Mirror

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Title: Candyman
Director: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo
Movie length: 1 hour 31 minutes

Candyman is a soft sequel to the 1992 film of the same name. I say soft sequel because it references the events of that film and features the titular baddie, it really stands on its own. I haven’t seen the original and thanks to the explanation of the ‘legend of the Candyman’ I didn’t feel lost at all. So what is the Candyman? Like Jason or Freddy, he’s got a backstory that explains why he kills people, in this case, people who say his name five times in the mirror.  

One thing that sets Candyman apart is its urban setting, taking place in the Cabrini Green projects of Chicago. Jordan Peele (Get Out), who is developing a distinct horror movie-making style, co-wrote and produced the movie. While the movie was directed by Nia DaCosta, it definitely feels like a Peele movie, using the setting to explore issues like race and gentrification, which elevates this film beyond a standard hack and slash horror movie. There is also some decent cinematography and effective use of creepy shadow box cutouts to fill in the backstory for those of us who aren’t familiar with Candyman. The movie earns its R rating with gallons of blood, though much of the mayhem wisely takes place off camera (or in one standout scene, partially viewed through a dropped compact mirror). Like in Jaws, I’ve always found leaving things to the imagination can be more effective than showing everything.  With that said, there were some gross moments that made me cringe.

While Candyman is an interesting film, it does fall prey to a few horror movie pitfalls.  First, it is heavily reliant on its characters making dumb decisions. Like, ‘jump a fence to go into the scary looking abandoned buildings alone’ or ‘go ahead and say Candyman in the mirror five times’ dumb. Befitting the horror genre, much of the plot is predictable. But as was the case with Get Out and Us, Candyman has a few decent surprises up its sleeve

My second issue with Candyman is my inability to find someone to root for. I feel a good horror movie is also only effective if you are invested in the characters.  hat makes you care about what happens to them. While the actors gave good performances, I just didn’t really connect with them. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in particular was excellent, but I found myself not really worrying about what happened to him, perhaps because I couldn’t relate to his artist character (I suspect the writers had a really bad experience with an artist, as the pretentious art jargon was laid on thick).

I initially didn’t find the ending satisfying, but upon further reflection, it fits what the movie was going for. If you are looking for everything wrapped into a neat bow at the end, you may find yourself disappointed. Candyman is significantly better than your typical 80s-90s reboot/remake/reimagining thanks to the new ideas the filmmaking team brings to the table. I’d certainly recommend seeing it during the Halloween season.

My Grade: B

If you’d like to hear the podcast version of this review, here is the link: https://anchor.fm/darren-shulman/episodes/Candyman-Review-e16kg7p


Candyman is now playing only in theaters.


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