Candyman (2021)

Someone on my social feeds posted the other day that they still couldn’t get this movie out of their mind days after watching it and I wondered, “Where did they get the version of this film that I so desperately wanted to see?”

Because after what feels like years of delays, this film finally was released and I’m struggling, quite honestly, to remember much of it. And what I do recall isn’t that good. It felt unfocused at best, scattered and boring at worst.

Which is a shame, because Candyman is one of the most unexpected and near-perfect horror films I’ve ever seen, a movie that effortlessly combined menace, terror, social commentary and reflected the world outside, all things that this movie shoots for and watches the ball circle the rim without ever scoring.

But hey — what do I know? It made $68 million worldwide against a $25 million budget.

The story of the first film has become exactly what the Candyman promised it would be, as Helen Lyle is now a legend and the unrelenting blight of the Cabrini-Green housing project has been cleaned up and gentrified, which is mirrored by how Anthony McCoy takes the stories of where he grew up and sells them as art.

Yet the story of who Candyman is moves his origins to 1977 and a man accused of placing a razor blade in a child’s candy, which takes away from the power of the true origins of the character.  The Sherman Fields version of the character takes away from the story until we finally get back to the Daniel Robitaille character and then gets further diluted by the concept that there is a hive of Candyman which discovers a new host every few years.

A bee’s sting and the push of a man named Billy Burke push McCoy toward becoming the next version of the urban legend, even as the kills that surround his story seem pulled from the worst Platinum Dunes-style 90s and 00s remakes of past horror films, particularly a scene in a girl’s bathroom that seems tonally at odds with some of the wonderful moments of this film, like the animated origins that punctuate the narrative.

I like so much of what director and writer Nia DaCosta — along with producers and co-writers Win Rosenfeld and Jordan Peele — are trying here, but the exact moment that the movie seems to be ready to mean something — as McCoy’s girlfriend must bring the avenging power of the Candyman to bear against the uncaring might of a white police force is the end of the film and then seemingly gets to what we really want to see. But by then, it’s too late to do much.

The main problem, at the end, is that the original film remains vital decades after I first saw it. This lost its potency while I was watching it. And that doesn’t make me happy at all, because this was a movie that I was rooting and hoping for, as I feel that the character and mythos remain a vital canvas on which to paint deep lessons upon.

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