Candyman (2021)

In Theatres: 
Aug 27, 2021
Running Time: 
91 minutes

Candyman constantly delivers on the impression that nothing is ever quite right. Even before the film starts, we’re shown reflected vanity cards for the movie studios with reversed words and images. As the opening scene takes you through the streets of Chicago, the camera forever points upwards, making it look like the skyscrapers are rising from the clouds rather than the ground. It’s all quite disorienting and unnerving; which carries through the rest of the film. Candyman constantly has you on the edge of your seat in fear, although there are times where it struggles with its potential.


Gentrification over the past decades has turned Chicago's Cabrini Green neighborhood from rundown projects into a luxury living space where white people thrive and the Black community is pushed further and further away. Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist living in the neighborhood and decides to use its history for his next piece. While speaking with longtime resident William (Colman Domingo), Anthony learns of the Candyman (Tony Todd), an urban legend about a man with a hook for a hand who appears and kills you if you say his name five times in the mirror. He decides to use Candyman as his centerpiece, although the deeper he dives into the myth, the more real it starts to become.


Candyman is all about reflections; reflections of horror, reflections of society, reflections of ourselves. The best element of the film is the way director Nia DaCosta shows all of this, beginning with its unnatural opening. Mirrors are everywhere in the film. Not only are they used to summon Candyman, but they’re constantly used to show scenes from different angles and point of views. The result is gorgeous cinematography that is both beautiful and terrifying when used effectively. In addition, the majority of the exposition about the history of Candyman is told through creepy shadow puppets that you’ll likely recognize from the trailers. It can get a little repetitive at times, especially since characters seem to explain over and over again who Candyman really is, giving just a little bit more detail with each new monologue. But between the paper puppets and the reflected world, Candyman is one stunning film to watch.


Unfortunately, Candyman’s story doesn’t quite match its visuals. It’s not bad, but it simply tosses out multiple themes and doesn’t get the opportunity to greatly explore any of them in detail. The film is a brisk 90 minutes, and a lot of it is exposition. Gentrification, racial inequality, the perception and evolution of urban legends within the community; all of these ideas and more feel like they’re simply brought up and glanced over. There’s just no time to really get into what Candyman is trying to do. The physical horror elements are solid too, with Candyman delivering some brutal and horrifying slasher kills, but it never quite grips you in fright before it moves onto the next thing. 


Candyman feels very much like the opening chapter that gives you a brief idea of what the whole story is about. It’s a tantalizing tease that has some fantastic ideas but lacks the execution needed to be fully great. There’s so much more worthy to explore. It’s just a shame that we’ll have to wait for a potential sequel in order to do so. Until then, I definitely won’t be saying any names in any mirrors anytime soon.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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