...oozes predictability in today’s age
Candyman crept up on me. Since its delay from 2020 to 2021, I had almost entirely forgotten it was happening, despite the constant talk about Jordan Peele’s name getting more credit than the actual filmmaker Nia DaCosta. Being a sequel of sorts to the 1992 feature film starring Tony Todd as the titular Candyman, I suppose it is proper etiquette to start this review off with a disclaimer: I have not seen the original film, but I do have a fondness for the legendary Tony Todd. Sadly he seems practically missing from this film. With the expectation of seeing Todd as the titular villain the entirety of the film thrown out the window, I needed to reflect back on what I had seen and figure out if it landed more on being a fascinating think piece, a creepy psychological horror, or a convoluted sequel.
There were some aspects of Candyman that I adored; nearly every scene has something wonderfully done and crafted, but it’s the way everything is pieced together that ultimately leaves an unsatisfying taste in my mouth. Choppy at best, Nia DeCosta can’t seem to make the final picture come together, and instead gives us a finale that oozes predictability in today’s age.
For those unaware of the Candyman lore, you’ll get plenty of it here, letting non-watchers of the original in on the legend. Sadly, while the style in which the backstory is told is eerie and innovative, the actual way it’s explained makes for an undeniably convoluted experience. Unbelievably, when the titular Candyman is summoned upon in a reflection after five calls, the actions that take place are bloody and gruesome, but none leave a lasting impression - being somewhat numbing after a while. The largest issue is that these consistent murders have no connection to the audience beyond a few lines indicating they’re “dreadful” people and that’s solely the reason for their demise.
These gory sequences leave the eerie pursuit of Anthony (our lead) both physically and mentally being the best parts of the film. With these elements not being of a killer, but by having the Candyman taking over Anthony's entire being over time and revealing himself through the artist’s pieces. An idea that isn’t from an original mindset - taken from films like the hidden gem The Devil's Candy and even *cough, cough* Velvet Buzzsaw, where the art is produced through possession. There’s so much left untouched that DeCosta and Peele chose to leave with no closure, and the artistic take could have been a fascinating choice, with the legend of Candyman being more and more known through the art of our artist. A final gallery showcasing the art created by the possessed Anthony could have been a great ending, leaving plenty of exhibitors saying the name “CANDYMAN.”
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Candyman offers us a singular character of interest, our lead Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an artist seeking his next muse which he finds in the Candyman legend. Friends, partners, and strangers surrounding Anthony are lacking in every regard; practically lambs for slaughter. Even so, Abdul-Mateen’s performance is occasionally underwhelming, even amongst his static backdrop. I truly wish more time was given to the side characters to better flesh them out before their ultimate fates.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Visually the film is a grand mix of amateur filmmaking and brilliant tense atmosphere with a key scene in a glass elevator smartly bringing the tension the rest of the film so badly needed. The iconic costume design of the Candyman is here in its full glory, although I must admit that the recognizable character design doesn’t have the scare appeal of the usual supernatural killer. The bees are a known attribute for the Candyman, appearing consistently throughout yet beyond the initial cause of Anthony’s skin decaying, they cause no harm. The hook is the only method of killing the legend utilizes, making the bee element almost an afterthought.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe has been in the entertainment business for some time, providing his talents to the musical department of numerous brilliant works since 2015 with films such as Sicario, Arrival, It Comes at Night, and Mother!. Now it’s his time to step into the driver’s seat by composing Candyman; he has produced an unsettling score that builds tension, even when the film's editing fails to capture its clear intentions.
Belated horror sequels have been commonplace over the past couple of years, replacing the onslaught of straight up remakes we received in the 2000s. Candyman is yet another belated sequel nearly thirty years later, and while I can’t judge it on the level of a spiritual sequel, I can measure it on the legs it has as a stand-alone feature. As a solo horror film, it fails to bring enough terror or suspense to incline a newcomer to watch based on its own merit, with a stale undertone that feels tacked on at the end to draw a conversation.