Candyman (2021)

“Candyman” is a reflective horror/thriller movie that makes you think about the effects of oppression and trauma. It has become the first film directed by a Black woman, Nia DaCosta, to open at No. 1. Jordan Peele, director of “Us” and “Get Out”, was a producer for the film and his touch can be felt throughout the story.

“Candyman” is a sequel to the original 1992 film. It builds upon the original lore and still works with some of the story from the less successful sequels. It stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II from “Aquaman” and “Us” as Anthony McCoy and Teyonah Parris from “WandaVision” as Brianna Cartwright.

The 1992 “Candyman” was created by white writers and producers about the Black community. The lead heroine, Helen Lyle, was very clearly a white savior being a white graduate student interested in studying the Cabrini-Green housing projects. DaCosta’s addition to the franchise reclaims this story and tells it through a Black lens.

I went into this movie completely blind because I had never seen the original film or any of Peele’s other horror movies. Viewers definitely shouldn’t have to watch the other movies because I enjoyed it thoroughly without having the context of the original story. Those who have seen the original movie will experience some extra Easter eggs and probably understand the twist of the film more quickly.

I really liked the way it built upon the original lore and changed it in ways that better suited the themes of this film. Two of the first characters we are introduced to are a Black gay man and his boyfriend. For a horror movie it definitely gets extra points for not participating in the “bury your gays” trope.

In the film, painter Anthony McCoy moves into an apartment with his art gallery director girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright, that was built where the Cabrini-Green towers once stood. He quickly learns about the legend of the Candyman from locals. Anthony then incorporates the legend into an art piece, encouraging viewers to say Candyman’s name five times in a mirror. He soon discovers the legend is real as it starts consuming him and the community.

There are many different moving parts in this film and rewatching it would definitely reveal even more nuance. Throughout the movie there are scenes of black paper puppets that show the different instances of racialized violence that made the Candyman who he is today. It also uses projection and reflection a lot, which makes sense since the Candyman is mostly visible through mirrors. I did find the murder scenes where, for the majority of them, they are being swung around by an invisible hook quite gimmicky and would have preferred more direct visuals of our killer.

I also feel like Anthony wasn’t a memorable protagonist. I found myself much more interested in Brianna’s story and how the events of the movie impacted her. Her tragic backstory was given to us through a brief flashback but it stuck with me throughout the movie. I would have loved some sort of end credit scene showing her future.

As with most films Peele is involved in, there was deeper social commentary that shaped the story. It was honestly so interesting I had to fight myself from turning this review into an analysis. The Candyman is a great representation of generational trauma, especially since his lore was changed from him being one ghost to there being multiple Candymen created from different instances of racist violence. The suffering the Black community has endured ended up fueling the legend more.

In the past, the Candyman killed indiscriminately, many of his victims being Black in the original film. While Candyman is still born of suffering, he came across as more of a protector in this adaptation. All of the victims had insulted or tormented a Black character shortly before summoning the Candyman and being killed by him. My favorite murder scene in the film uses a beautiful longshot through a distant high rise window to frame the action.

You also can’t talk about housing projects without talking about gentrification. This film has a lot of analysis of housing inequality and the situations of the people who lived in places like Cabrini-Green. Some scenes were filmed on location inside what is left of the housing project, returning to where the original film was shot. The movie also touches on white people’s love for Black art and culture without actually accepting it through the striking line of, “They love what we make, but not us.”

I would encourage any horror fans or politically minded people to go see “Candyman.” It has all of the elements of a slasher thriller that make them great while also giving meaningful themes to chew on.

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