This weekend sees the return of a classic horror franchise, via the big screen release of Candyman. The film – directed by Nia DaCosta – arrives in UK and US cinemas today, and is the fourth entry in the Candyman horror series, which includes Candyman (1992), Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995), and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).
This latest instalment stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Tony Todd, Vanessa Estelle Williams, and Cassie Kramer. The movie follows the story of an artist, who crosses paths with the eponymous horror icon, after moving into a beautiful new apartment in a much sought-after area of Chicago.
The artist in the movie is Anthony McCoy, who moves into a condo in Cabrini-Green – a gentrified area of the city. But Cabrini-Green holds a dark secret and not too long ago it was far from the picture-perfect location it is today.
As Anthony learns more about his new home, he uncovers some worrying details about a local urban legend, that was reportedly responsible for a series of murders in the past. Anthony also discovers that he shares a startling connection to this urban legend, who locals dub the ‘Candyman’.
But the Candyman is more than just a myth, and soon Anthony finds himself in the middle of a killing spree, as the terrifying villain emerges from the shadows. The Candyman is back and Anthony is very much on his radar.
For those unfamiliar with the Candyman movie series, each film revolves around a mythical bogeyman who is summoned whenever anyone repeats his name five times while looking into a mirror. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me, but hey, it happens repeatedly throughout the series and this new movie is keen not to break with tradition.
Once the Candyman is summoned, he goes on a short killing spree. Bodies rack up, details are revealed about his past, and things don’t tend to end well.
For those keeping score, the original movie was set in Chicago, around the troubled Cabrini-Green housing projects, and told a story about Helen Lyle – a semiotics graduate researching urban legends (specifically the Candyman). The sequels branched out to New Orleans and Los Angeles, respectively, and focused their stories around descendants of Daniel Robitaille (aka the Candyman).
This new entry returns the story to Cabrini-Green, to catch up on characters and themes explored in the original movie. This is a smart move, because not only does this latest movie distance itself from the lacklustre ‘90s sequels (particularly Day of the Dead), but it also aligns itself closely with the very first film, which is the best entry in the original trilogy.
But what is perhaps most surprising about this new movie is just how closely linked Candyman 2021 is to Candyman 1992. For a long time, this new movie was shrouded in mystery with the suggestion that it could be a remake, but I can confirm it is very much a direct sequel.
If you plan on seeing Candyman, my advice is to brush up on that first film before heading out to the cinema. You can watch this latest movie if you are completely new to the franchise, but you will have a much better experience and a lot less question if you know what has come before.
In terms of this new offering, Candyman is good. It is very good.
This film takes the established mythology from the previous movies, adds a new angle to it, and reworks it for the modern generation. Nothing is lost along the way – all that has come before is simply enhanced.
As for the story, it brings something different to the table, with a new focus and a contemporary eye. It takes inspiration from some truly terrible headlines of recent times (police brutality, racial injustice, etc), to ensure the narrative carries some oomph!
Those who grew up with the original film will know there was a lot of weight to Candyman, and it was a cultural milestone. This latest offering carries that same weight, but for different reasons, and I believe the story will certainly connect strongly with some audiences.
But it’s not just the story that lands so well, the horror angle does too. At times, this is one creepy-ass movie.
You want some gross imagery? You got it – and you can have some unsettling scenes too! From shadow puppets and bathroom brutality, to pieces of candy stuffed with razor blades, there are plenty of disturbing moments in this film.
There is a scene early into the movie which I found to be really unnerving. It is a brief moment, but I didn’t like it – and as a horror fan I know when I see a scene like this one, it means this movie is delivering something good.
For me, Candyman delivers time-and-time again, but it isn’t problem-free. The film is so closely linked to the original, that at times it is exposition heavy. And I mean exposition heavy.
Not only does Candyman have lots of scenes setting up all the new characters and mythology, it also has to cram in a big chunk of information relating to the original movie. The combination of the two means that this movie contains multiple scenes in which characters have to stop the story just to explain significant details to the audience.
This constant need for explanation slows things down somewhat. It didn’t bug me, but I know this will bug some people, especially those hoping for a fast-moving slasher movie.
And Candyman isn’t a fast-moving slasher. This is a slow-burning, thought-provoking tale, which shines the spotlight on social and cultural issues that are being discussed today. It wants you to think carefully about what you are watching.
Candyman is a strong horror movie. It takes what has come before and builds outwards to create something new. There are parts of the story which will confuse new audiences, so heed my warnings about familiarising yourself with the original movie, but for those who adore the 1992 film, you will love this.
If you’re a horror buff, you’ll be damn happy that the Candyman series is back and arguably better than ever. This latest film makes up for some of the missteps in the past, while bringing everything up to date to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the original.