Potentially a victim of both Covid and the hype brewing from extended anticipation, CANDYMAN (2021) has finally made it to the big screen. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (THE GET DOWN, that episode of BLACK MIRROR) stars as Anthony McCoy; an up-and-coming artist who suddenly finds himself enveloped by the legend of the hook-handed force of vengeance that is summoned by looking in a mirror and saying his name five times.
Unfortunately, Nia DaCosta’s long-delayed ‘spiritual sequel’ to the 1992 horror classic is both entertaining and a bit of a disappointment. While the latest installment is a worthy follow-up for this franchise, it just misses the mark of being something special. For everything it gets right, there’s a rather painful realization waiting at the end: It could/should have been a much better movie.
From DaCosta’s rather skillful direction, to the outstanding cinematography, CANDYMAN is an amazingly gorgeous and visually stunning film. The Jordan Peele-Win Rosenfeld-DaCosta screenplay, however, is rocky. The majority of the characters are the type of horror genre-specific, paper-thin stereotypes who serve no purpose other than to raise the body count. Abdul-Mateen II and Colman Domingo (FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, ZOLA) manage to shine despite a weak script, but Teyonah Parris (MCU’s Monica Rambeau) is shamefully wasted in the tired role of the protagonist’s girlfriend.
***SPOILER WARNING*** The decision to expand on the ‘concept’ behind our titular character was a brilliant move; creating a clear, almost empowering, new version of CANDYMAN. Now, our audience is given the space to celebrate what is basically a superhero origin story; which may explain why the horror aspect of the movie was, shockingly, toned down. Yes, there are the typically violent (and impressively shot) death scenes you would expect to see, but they are mostly devoid of any real feeing of suspense — let alone reason to fear for the one-dimensional victims. For what is billed as a horror movie, this is anything but scary. ***END OF SPOILER WARNING***
While much is being made of the social commentary on hand (with far less nuance on display than practiced by the original), the third act of this overly-ambitious effort is its biggest misstep. It’s messy and seemingly suffers from studio interference; as if thorough storytelling was sacrificed in favor of a higher number of daily showtimes at the local multiplex. Instead of well-developed characters and sound plot advancement, we are left with a 90-minute movie that feels flat and disjointed.
When compared to the first CAND— uh, the original film starring Virginia Madsen, this movie is going to lose out to the combination of nostalgia and the far superior Tony Todd performance. It’s also not going to play well, at all, for certain audiences.
Three and a Half out of Five Beers