"Candyman" stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, and Tony Todd. Released on August 27, 2021, the film is about an artist who is haunted by a vengeful spirit.
The film is directed by Nia DaCosta, who is known for directing "Little Woods" and the British television series "Top Boy". It is a direct sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name, which is based on the short story "The Forbidden" by Clive Barker. If we're going to end this year's summer vacation, why not end it with some blood and scares? With the success of 2018's "Halloween", it was only a matter of time before we see another famous slasher icon make a big-screen comeback in the form of a sequel. That time happens to be now, and apparently, the nefarious Candyman is next on the list. These people just couldn't resist saying his name five times. I wasn't very familiar with "Candyman" until I watched the original a while ago. All I can say about it was that I'm glad I wasn't involved in that scenario myself. As a result, I was pretty much prepared to witness the return of this terrifying spirit, especially when Jordan Peele is on board as a producer. Was this legend as frightening as we remembered, or was this nothing more than an unnecessary fairy tale? Let's find out.
The film is set years after the events of the original "Candyman". Anthony McCoy (Abdul-Mateen II) is a visual artist who moves into a luxurious loft condo in Chicago's Cabrini Green neighborhood with his girlfriend/art gallery director, Brianna Cartwright (Parris). He later encounters a resident named William Burke (Domingo), who exposes him to the legend of the deadly Candyman (Todd), a supernatural killer who can be summoned by those who repeat his name five times into a mirror. The story behind the spirit could be what Anthony needs to get his painting career back on track. As he digs deeper into the lore, he'll soon discover that some legends are better left alone. Like 2018's "Halloween", "Candyman" took the approach of being a direct continuation of the original and wiping the sequels that came before it out of existence. While this idea seemed more tolerable than rebooting the franchise from scratch, the film still had to face the challenge of honoring the cult classic without relying too much on the fundamental horror cliches. It's a challenge that other filmmakers tried and failed with their own sequels to the terrifying classics for years. Fortunately, director Nia DaCosta managed to conquer that task with ease. After suffering through some terrible horror sequels this year, it's such a relief to see that the 2021 continuation of "Candyman" didn't make me want to kill myself with a hook. Not only did it honor the 1992 film with its well-executed frights and haunting story, but it also successfully expanded upon its mythology through racial injustice and Black history. Nia DaCosta delivered a film that uses atmosphere, suspense, race, and some off-screen kills to generate some scares without taking any shortcuts with its cliches and cheap jump scares. Unfortunately, the sequel was far from perfect, mainly due to its weak third act and a rushed buildup that lead to it. The film is only an hour and a half long, which is standard for the genre. However, with a story that deals with psychological madness and social commentary, I felt like this is one of the films that could've explore more of what they have given to provide some more coherency. Nevertheless, it's still a terrifying and riveting experience that showcases DaCosta as a promising young filmmaker whose style may have been inspired by Jordan Peele's directorial efforts. The cast also did very well in their roles, with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II being the main highlight as Anthony. Once again, his eye-opening performance proved his worth as one of the most underrated actors working in Hollywood today. Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo also delivered some solid performances as Brianna and William Burke, respectively. At first, I was concerned that Nathan Stewart-Jarrett's portrayal of Brianna's brother Troy would ruin the film's tone with his brand of comedy. I was surprised to see that that wasn't the case as his humor was balanced nicely with the film's mood, and it was actually funny. The film also gets some points for its cinematography and lighting effects. The wide-angle and panning shots, along with its superb lighting, helped make the movie both hauntingly gorgeous and grimly disturbing. Although I couldn't help but feel that the technical aspects were almost similar to Jordan Peele's directorial works, "Get Out" and "Us". He's indeed involved as a screenwriter and producer, but if you replace DaCosta with Peele in the director's chair, the result would likely still be the same as before, but maybe a bit better?
Overall, with its near-perfect blend of horror, storytelling, and social commentary, "Candyman" is a worthy successor to the 90s horror classic. While its underwhelming third act and short runtime prevented it from reaching beyond its expectations, it's still a well-directed and delightfully creepy continuation that'll make you think twice before saying his name five times. This is undoubtedly the best horror sequel I've seen in 2021 so far, thanks to its superb cast, DaCosta's direction, effective scares, and cinematography. If you're familiar with the previous "Candyman" movies, you certainly don't want to miss the petrifying legend's return.