Review: Candyman (2021)

In 1992, Candyman struck fear in moviegoers across the world. It was like nothing horror fans had seen – one part slasher film, one part supernatural horror, and one part urban legend.  For decades, people have been afraid to say his name in the mirror.

Director Nia DaCosta has brought the iconic character back to live in Candyman, a true sequel to 1992’s original.

This story follows an aspiring artist named Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Looking for new inspiration, Anthony starts investigating Helen Lyle’s death in Cabrini Green back in 1992 and the urban legend of Candyman. Anthony’s girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) is an art director at a local gallery and puts Anthony’s Candyman work on display. Anthony and others summon Candyman by saying his name in a mirror. As a wise man once said, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Anthony quickly becomes obsessed with the Candyman lore. It’s not long before a series of hook related murders start happening around him as his life starts spiraling out of control. Similar to what happened to Helen in the first film.

Candyman is a perfect sequel and, in many ways, is very much its own film. Bernard Rose’s direction in the first film was grimy and gritty. DaCosta’s film is a sleeker updated version. There are some amazing shots and interesting camera angles – DaCosta utilizes mirrors and reflections to show some of the film’s most gruesome murders. Those scenes are even better when the character(s) are going in and out of frame. The film’s best scene is a murder that takes place in a high-rise apartment. The scene opens with a tight shot and slowly pulls out as the camera focuses on a character being murdered. It’s such a beautiful shot for a terrifying scene.

To no surprise, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is fantastic as the lead. Anthony goes through a few different phases and Abdul-Mateen nails each one of them. The film is at its best when he’s onscreen absolutely losing his mind.

Teyonah Parris gives a good performance and is the voice of reason throughout the film. One of the running gags is Brianna and other characters refusing to say Candyman’s name in a mirror and confused as to why anyone would do that. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Brianna’s brother Troy who steals every scene he’s in. Stewart-Jarrett is awesome and has incredible comedic timing. Hopefully this fantastic performance means we will see more of him.

Not to be outdone, Colman Domingo gives the best performance in the film. He continues to show why he’s one of the best actors working right now. He’s amazing in the film and gives an incredible performance in the third act.

Although the cast is great, people aren’t watching Candyman for incredible acting, they watch to be scared. Well, they’re in luck because there are enough scares and kills to satisfy any horror fan’s heart. There aren’t a ton of jump scares but there are some fantastic kills. From the brutal to the shocking, there is something there for everyone.

There is also a lot of body horror. Early in the movie, Anthony is stung by a bee. As the story progresses, Anthony’s bee sting gets worse and starts to infect the rest of his arm. It’s pretty disgusting. There are scenes when the camera zooms in on his arm and it looks painful. It’s reminiscent of Brundle’s slow decay in 1986’s The Fly.

Candyman isn’t without its fault. The script can feel a little clunky at times. At just around 90 mins, there’s a lot the film could’ve explored, but didn’t have the time too. There’s a flashback and some conversations about Brianna’s dad and the work that drove him crazy. It’s feels like that story is leading to a reveal but there’s no payoff.

From time to time we get a good sequel and Candyman is one of them. 29 years after the first film, Nia DaCosta delivers a worthy sequel that feels fresh and new. It’s funny, terrifying and gives horror fans another Candyman film to love. It also creates another generation of people afraid to say his name in the mirror five times…including me.

Grade: A-