Reboot of Urban Legend
Candyman. Do you dare say it? We’re coming up on 30 years since the hook-handed killer – known affectionately as the Candyman – haunted the honeycombed halls of the Cabrini-Green housing project in 1992’s Candyman. And now he’s back to paint those same corridors red in a reboot of the franchise that examines the urban legend of the Candyman from a fresh new angle.
Gone is the alluring story as told from the perspective of a white woman who finds herself at the mercy of a cold-blooded killer in a largely African American housing project, replaced by one that looks at the urban legend through the lens of the Black experience. And in that respect, this revisit from director Nia DaCosta is a better film. It’s just too bad that screenwriters Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta get so many other things wrong.
The new Candyman is set in the same neighborhood where the Cabrini-Green towers from the original once stood. All that’s left of the project are a couple of two-story row houses and some shiny new loft apartments in the gentrified neighborhood where aspiring artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago Seven) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Harris, Dear White People) live.
As Brianna presses the flesh on her rise up the ladder to becoming a successful art gallery director, Anthony is getting dirty in the trenches as he struggles to come up with the inspiration for a new piece. He finds it when an old man in the neighborhood tells of his own encounters with the Candyman back in 1977. The further Anthony goes down the Candyman rabbit hole, the deeper into a dark and demonic world he descends.
The idea with this reboot is to be a sort of amalgam of the old and the new – to offer something fresh and unfamiliar while paying mad respect to the legacy of the original. It isn’t necessary to have watched the original as it features a ton of exposition to get those unfamiliar up to speed with its storyline. Via a series of creative shadow puppet vignettes throughout the proceedings, the story behind the mysterious legend is revealed while also giving the film a much-welcomed creative flair. In addition, the themes of race relations, cultural appropriation, poverty, and police brutality – although all a bit too on the nose this time around – remain.
However, sorely missing is the gooey gritty atmospheric creep factor that permeated the original. Much of that first film’s success relied on its low budget sensibilities and the fact that we had not really seen anything quite like it before.
Very well directed and much more polished and shiny, Candyman 2021 is not the terrifying experience we were all expecting. Sure, it is well-deserving of its R rating with some great kills and a budget-busting fake blood budget, but it is all too often propped up by jump scares and standard horror movie cliches. If bloodletting and body horror are your thing, you’ll be in slasher heaven. But by the time all is said and done, not much is added to the franchise other than an obvious setup for a sequel.
(Released by MGM and rated “R” for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.