Film Review: ‘Candyman’ invokes the mythical and real horrors of white supremacy

Teyonah Parris (left) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in "Candyman." (Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures/TNS)
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures

As an avid horror fan, any film produced and written by Jordan Peele is sure to get my excitement up, especially a new release leading into the fall season. 

Directed by Nia DaCosta, “Candyman” joins Peele’s previous projects “Us” and “Get Out” as both a thought-provoking horror film and an important social commentary. A sequel to the 1992 film, several members of the original cast come back to deliver gut-wrenching scenes guaranteed to send goosebumps up your arms.

Being an early 2000’s kid, I sadly did not experience the original 1992 “Candyman” — I almost wish the enticing trailers for the new film mentioned the original. In hindsight, there were definitely some ties and references to the original that I didn’t quite get without that experience. However, this film can certainly be fully appreciated even without having seen the 1992 original. 

The 2021 follow-up features a similar storyline and returning characters that tie together two amazing films. An up-and-coming Black artist, Anthony McCoy, is desperately searching for his next big project, and his growing interest in the local Candyman legend seemingly puts himself and his loved ones in danger. 

Teyonah Parris (left) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in "Candyman." (Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures/TNS)
[Teyonah Parris (left) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in “Candyman”]
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures

With an intense focus on racial injustice, “Candyman” reminds viewers of the importance of preserving Black culture and calling out gentrification. McCoy’s art comments on a number of issues like police brutality; akin to “Get Out” and “Us,” “Candyman” forces viewers to assess their own biases while reveling in Peele’s intense horror.

Without spoiling the plot, it’s safe to say that the twists and reveals in this movie come as quite the shock, especially without having seen the original. Though I have to admit that I caught on and guessed several of those big reveals, I wouldn’t call it “predictable,” at least not in a bad way. 

Finding a sense of predictability isn’t always a bad thing — actually, a part of the fun of horror movies is guessing the outcomes along the way, especially when you discover you were right. 

The character of the legendary Candyman originates from a 1985 short story, “The Forbidden,” by Clive Barker. The film does a wonderful job of interlacing mythology from “The Forbidden” and the 1992 “Candyman,” giving viewers a complete backstory without spending too much time in the past. 

In fact, the storytelling in the movie occurs as a creepy, two-dimensional puppet show, adding to the tension building up throughout the film. This art style is what kept me in my seat as the credits rolled, watching other interpretations of the Candyman myth play out as stark paper figures moving across the screen. The scene throughout the credits was honestly emotional, leaving me with an aching heart even after the film ended.

I have to comment on the theatrical experience of “Candyman” — horror fans far and wide tend to agree that the best way to experience a horror film is in the cinema, and “Candyman” is no exception. 

With a chilling score composed by Robert A.A. Lowe, the soundtrack is best heard seated among other horror fans gasping in fear. Lowe transports viewers to a gentrified Cabrini-Green, leaving them leaning forward, waiting for the scares and reveals. 

As we enter into the fall season, horror fans are starting their scary movie watch lists. If you’re a Peele fan or enjoy mythology based films, adding “Candyman” to your list is a great choice.

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