Cast: Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Colman Domingo
Directed by Nia DaCosta
2021’s ‘Candyman’ takes the ritualistic horror of the 1992 original and brings it up to speed for a contemporary setting, adding a new sense of societal and cultural awareness which influences a major part of the film. Now in the hands of rising star Nia DaCosta, this new ‘Candyman’ promises just as many thrills as the last.
Although the horror genre is one known for infrequent character development, with many performers being introduced with very little background, simply for the purpose of an easy murder scene, there are always some which take the time to bring the audience into the world of those they’re watching, and often it’s those same films which receive a great amount of success. However, this latest ‘Candyman’ is sadly not such a film, as each character receives only a surface level introduction, and are often only used to perform a certain task or reflect a certain issue, rather than feeling as if they actually live within the world of the film. As a result, the real thrill of seeing such characters being put through variously terrifying situations loses its edge fairly quickly, as the consequence of their death or escape is one of the last things on the audience’s mind.
From the very start, DaCosta’s ‘Candyman’ establishes itself as a film which will use its horror as a means to delve deep into issues revolving around race and inequality. The bourgeois Chicago neighbourhood which comprises the film’s setting is a newly-gentrified area, having taken the homes of those generally in poverty, and renovating them to make such a place more attractive to those from wealthier and more privileged backgrounds. The lead character himself, Anthony, is one such resident, and his careless attitude to the origins of the Candyman work as a reflection to the disregard shown towards such neighbourhoods by the city on a more metaphorical level, and as the beginning of the end for his character in terms of narrative. Whilst it’s important that films use their own medium as a way to explore key issues such as this, and the horror genre is definitely seeming to catch up to others in this way, it’s the overly heavy-handed manner in which ‘Candyman’ goes about developing its themes which can take an audience both out of a scene, and out of the film entirely. Rather than using subtlety and implicit meaning to allow the viewer to think for themselves, the narrative constantly makes reference to specific details in a way that very easily allows the audience to switch off from what’s trying to be said.
‘Candyman’ definitely has moments where it feels as if it’s trying something new, and I imagine that Nia DaCosta has big things ahead of her, but for now I can’t say I’d recommend this film to many people, even those who love horror. The trailer delivers a brilliant use of animation, but other than that, ‘Candyman’ has fairly little to offer.