“A sequel to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.”

Director: Nia Dacosta
Writers: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
Staring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo
Release Date: August 27, 2021

If Jordan Peele is attached to a horror movie, it is worth checking out. Candyman (2021) is a sequel to the 1992 original Candyman (1992) and has more direct ties than advertised in any commercials or trailers. The artsy horror story has heavy social commentary and hits its highest moments when director Nia DaCosta and cinematographer John Guleserian illuminate the depths of gentrification and hidden hideousness near the Cabrini towers. Candyman is not your traditional horror movie, but it is one worthy of your undivided attention.

Anthony McCoy (Abdul-Mateen II) is a successful local artist who is looking for his next inspiration. His partner Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) is runs an art studio and supports Anthony on almost all of his endeavors. Anthony starts researching the history of Chicago neighborhood and discovers the myth of the Candyman, and that kicks off his project entitled “Say My Name.”

Guess what. People start saying his name. Gullible or curious victims begin uttering Candyman in front of the mirror, and the bloodshed increases as the message begins to spread. Anthony’s life starts to get very complicated when he begins to feel intravenously connected to the murders. He either sees himself as the Candyman committing the crimes, or he senses when anybody begins antagonizing the spirit. Anthony seeks out the advice of William Burke (Colman Domingo), who was around when the Candyman legend first appeared, but even with all the feedback he can gather, Anthony is not ready for the truth he uncovers.

Candyman starts off remarkably well, hits its peak around two thirds of the movie, and then teeters out as it tries to wrap its hands around its own large over-arching message. While Anthony is learning about the Candyman and the history of his native, the Dacosta and Guleserian are able to have fun with the killings and the terror. Candyman is not jump out of your seat scary, but it has an aura of dread and mystery. It is like walking into a dark room without the lights on. You know nothing bad should happen, but there is the existential dread that if something did happen, you wouldn’t be able to see it. When viewing Candyman, you have that same sense of dread. When the reciters of “Candyman” are looking in the mirror, you as the viewers are in that limbo of waiting to see if something bad is going to happen.

So in terms of the ending. This is where Candyman lost its best mojo. Why did it have to wrap up so fast? Why did the story need to be tied that neatly? What happened to the slow podding cadence that paced the majority of the movie?

The Candyman moves slowly. He plots out his kills once his victims call out to him. The same dreaded crawl-like cringe seeps out (in the best way) in the art house and bathroom stall killings. However, when you get to the end of the movie and when you witness Anthony coming face-to-face with the horror that has been obsessing and possessing him, the manacles are undone and it is like 28 Days Later zombies running at you speed.

Don’t get it twisted. The ending of Candyman is still satisfying and it does hit the notes that the story told, all-be-it that they are not in step. J.K. Simmons wouldn’t be happy with it. But storytellers and fans of a story told without dialogue will be satisfied.

Candyman makes it money with the its visuals. The puppet interjections are perfectly creepy and trace back to the 90s in terms of style and feel. The neo-modern look of all the new buildings in this part of Chicago are a wonderful polar opposite to the Rowhouses that are still there in and near Cabrini Green. It is very cool that the whole cast and crew got to go back to Cabrini Green to make this movie, for it was where the original was filmed and based on. You can literally see the gentrification and development that this movie is constantly hinting at.

My favorite shot of the movie comes during Anthony visit to art critic Finley Stephens (Rebecca Spence). Stephens disliked Anthony’s work at first and was harsh on his work of “Say His Name” calling it redundant (for lack of a better word). Stephens’ opinion on Anthony changes following the murders at the art show that they both attended; blood and guts get the viewership numbers up.

Anthony calls Stephens out on her bullshit, and asks if she participated in his piece. Did she say Candyman in the mirror five times?

Finley steps away for a moment and we loose sight on her. We stay with Anthony, and we see an immediate change in his tenor. Anthony becomes frantic, extra aware of his surroundings. It turns out that Anthony is in the presence of the Candyman. It is at this moment of Candyman that we realize there is an extraordinary connection between Anthony and this evil entity. Stephens comes out and finds Anthony totally disheveled. He runs away, cutting their interview short, leaving Finley alone.

The scene ends with a long extended zoom out, starting from Finley’s apartment and eventually showing the new high rise buildings in this once poor Chicago area. While the camera is showing what the city has become, Finley is in her apartment getting brutally slashed to pieces by the Candyman. The critic who was at first condescending of the lesson Anthony was trying to teach with his art, is not being killed by it coming to life. Anthony was showing history and making the future hold a mirror to itself. History repeats itself. The future that buried the past is now coming face-to-face with things thought forgotten. But legends never die.

Candyman is not your traditional horror movie. It is not outright scary, but it is compelling. It is filled with strong performances by all parties and the hidden (all be it wide out in the open) messages forces the audience to come to grips that the past always has a hold on the present.

Jordan Peele delivers again. He wrote Candyman. He has a knack for these movies. He has a knack to make something special, even if slightly flawed.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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