When Candyman came out in 1992 the horror world was at a crossroads. The blood splatter soaked 80s marked a high point of the genre for some but considering just how saturated the market had become it made sense that moviegoers would be seeking something new. 1991 saw an end, of sorts, to the Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play & Omen series along with a true genre classic in The Silence of the Lambs. It was a passing of the torch in that horror fans were ready to move back into grittier territory than the colourful but less than scary decade prior.
What audiences weren’t necessarily ready for was Candyman. Despite the fact that it had all the trademarks to be the next big horror franchise, from the distinctive signature weapon to the new spin on the traditional Bloody Mary in the mirror legend, Candyman had a minor impact at the box office and subsequent entries landed without much fanfare. Looking back now it’s easy to see why the examination of America’s history of race-based violence and the harsh realities faced in 1990s projects living didn’t find a wide audience. It was a high concept take on the slasher genre that came out right in between Freddy’s Dead & Jason Goes to Hell and quite frankly it made people uncomfortable. Thankfully good movies have a way of finding an audience and as the years have gone on Candyman has found a continually wider audience, to the point where star Tony Todd has said he believes Candyman will be amongst the first three things mentioned in his eulogy, and is now often mentioned as one of the best genre films of the decade.
As a huge fan of the original, I’m happy Candyman managed to avoid being caught up in the remake frenzy Hollywood went through in the mid-00s as I’m sure there was at least 1 producer that thought a PG-13 remake with CGI bees was going to be exactly what audiences needed. Eventually, a new Candyman was announced and it was going to jump in on the newest trend and make a long later sequel that opens up to a new audience while keeping alive the original classic, this move worked really well for Star Wars with The Force Awakens and to a lesser extent with Halloween (2018). Candyman (2021) is best categorised as an uneven success as it is mostly excellent despite a few bizarre fumbles. The first takeaway from Candyman is that Director Nia DaCosta is going to be a superstar, regardless of what’s happening on screen your eyes are locked and most of the movies frames are individual works of art. Stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II & Teyonah Parris have solid chemistry and carry things well despite some uneven supporting roles. The central plotline interacts with and expands upon the original film in some interesting ways that left me wanting more of this mythology as soon as possible.
While the 1992 Candyman might have thrown a flashlight on social issues the 2021 edition comes armed with a spotlight. Earlier this year Spiral clumsily took an attempt at including racial injustice in law enforcement as a plot device in a horror franchise and it came up hollow; Candyman has a much more confident and competent approach to the subject manner. Horror movies have always been a means of turning societal issues into physical manifestations of terror whether it’s consumerism in Dawn of the Dead, grief in The Babadook or bad relationships in Midsommar the monsters on-screen are representative of the things we face on a day to day basis. Candyman continues that tradition in an approach some may find heavy-handed or overly “woke” but, as this series has already experienced, sometimes it takes a little while for a message to find its audience.
There are a few glaring negatives to the film that were so avoidable it almost makes them worse. The 90-minute runtime doesn’t seem to fit the intention behind the film as there are sequences and storylines that either feel shoehorned in or incomplete; considering we’re in a world where a 3 hour IT sequel can make hundreds of millions of dollars there’s really no excuse to confirm to the old 90 minutes and done horror movie formula. There was more here and it should have been fleshed out. Speaking of fleshed out, Candyman commits one of my biggest horror offences and leaves its violence largely off-screen. While I’ve never considered myself a gorehound or even someone that needs violence in their horror I do expect that if you’re going to include it that you embrace the R rating and show it. Considering how gorgeously everything on screen was presented by DeCosta I would have loved to have seen how she presented some more carnage.
Despite a few sour bits having the Candyman back is a sweet note to close out the summer movie season. Hopefully this isn’t our last visit to Cabrini Green as there seems to be plenty of honey left in this pot (ok, ok I’ll stop with the puns) Now everyone get out to the theatre and find out what the buzz (ok 1 more pun) is all about!