The Drexel Theatre has just premiered Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele’s new film called Candyman (2021), but how does it expand upon the cult franchise?
In 1992, Tony Todd stepped into the iconic role of “the Candyman,” a hook-handed phantom who is summoned by saying his name five times in the mirror. The film was inspired by a short story written by Clive Barker, famously known for being the creator of Hellraiser.
Nearly 30 years after the original’s release, the franchise has been reanimated with a “spiritual sequel.” Candyman (2021) stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the role of Anthony McCoy, a young artist living in Chicago who becomes obsessed with the legend of Candyman. Little does he know that his past is tied to the infamous killer.
Despite the film being a sequel to the original, having prior knowledge is not necessary to follow along with this story. Granted, the first film is definitely worth checking out; probably one of the best horror films produced during the 1990s.
A central theme of the movie is black trauma, and how Black people try to cope with that. This film introduces an interesting twist to the Candyman lore. Instead of just one Candyman, there are multiple versions; “Candymen” if you will. These different versions are brought about by tragedies that befall innocent Black men.
To deal with these tragedies, the Black community creates urban legends that immortalize the victims.
This concept ties in beautifully with the lifestyle of a bee (the signature trademark of the Candyman). Candyman isn’t just a single person (a single bee) he’s an entire hive of tormented souls who haunt those that believe in them. They all work together to achieve a common goal, instill fear in the community that failed them.
On a technical level, the cinematography throughout the film is gorgeous. The opening title sequence is hypnotizing as we see the skyscrapers of Chicago slowly pass by. It’s actually a reversal of the opening sequence from the original film, which can be viewed below.
From gentrification to police brutality, this film has a lot to say about the Black experience in America. So much so that I feel it does a poor job of doing either proper justice. The themes are brilliant on paper, but the actual execution fell short in certain areas.
For instance, gentrification is mentioned quite often in dialogue, but it never really goes anywhere. In the 1992 film, the Cabrini Green high-rise towers played a pivotal role in the storytelling. The rundown environment had a strong personality and it also invoked the class divide between Chicago’s citizens.
In this film, we see a historically black church that has literally been whitewashed. That was a nice touch when it comes to social commentary, but outside of that, the gentrification theme wasn’t explored much further.
Without getting into spoilers, the film really drops the ball at the end with its depiction of law enforcement. It’s almost laughable how evil police officers are in this film. There’s definitely corruption in real-life law enforcement, but the film could’ve handled this heavy topic without being so obvious. In addition, it’s like the audience is expected to sympathize and root for Candyman at the end like he’s some heroic figure who will protect us from evil cops.
Sure. In a lot of ways, Candyman is a victim of his society, but he’s previously been shown as a vicious killer who will take the lives of anyone who summons him, including children. He should not be idolized, and the film almost does that at the end.
Candyman (1992) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) both make commentaries on racial violence in America, but it’s done in a way where the messaging isn’t constantly driven home throughout. While watching those films, you can be entertained without getting too distracted by their overall important themes.
Last May, comedian Chris Rock debuted his first horror feature called Spiral. The film was a follow-up to the Saw franchise, and I was incredibly excited to see it in theaters. Upon my first viewing, I was confronted with a variety of feelings. While the premise of the film was interesting, the contrived plot points and ridiculous ending squandered what could’ve been a great final product. It was neither good nor bad, and it can be frustrating when a film leaves you feeling like that.
Those are the same emotions I experienced when walking out of this film. Candyman (2021) has a lot to say about what it means to be a Black man in America, and that’s admirable considering everything that this country has been going through recently.
At its core, the Candyman franchise is associated with the slasher genre; crazy kills and fun thrills. It must be stressed, though, that audiences should not go into this particular film expecting that. If you’re interested in seeing it, view it as a psychological drama, not a popcorn slasher flick.
The gore is modest and there’s little shock value. I don’t really recommend the film for slasher fans, but for those looking for something different, expect a dark drama film about a man who is both figuratively and literally decaying within a flawed society.