Someone call a dentist because Candyman is rotten to the root…
The gentrified Chicago neighborhood of Cabrini-Green has a history of violence at the hands of white oppressors, of police, and, more recently, at the hands of the men, the myth, the hive… Candyman.
Slow to start, the film takes its time to establish the world, the characters, and the stakes. At first it feels right since horror films are notorious at jumping right into it, barely even giving you a chance to breathe until after the shocking cold open. We spend half of its valuable 92 minutes patiently establishing everything with very little making us uneasy. It then accelerates, pedal to the metal, almost as if the narrative was trying to catch up with the runtime.
Where the film thrives is in the depiction of people from different backgrounds & cultures. Nia DaCosta makes a point to depict our Black and our LGBTQ+ characters accurately, treating each as a real person rather than a stereotype. We have so many rich characters that feel unique and contribute to the story by doing much more than deliver lines. They help bring this world to life and help us to believe it, an area this film needs a ton of help in.
One of the biggest issues with the film is that you struggle to believe the world. Why is this happening? How would anyone be able to predict what our lead would do or who he was, for that matter? The filmmakers fail to bring clarity and understanding, choosing to focus on the, often disturbing, visuals rather than on the substance that helps this film stand the test of time on its own merit.
I’ve heard many say that the film is much better if you see the original 1992 film leading into this one and that may very well be true. I purposefully chose to go into this one not having seen the O.G. in more than 20 years because I wanted to be able to judge it without outside influence. I understand “spiritual sequel” is getting tossed around making this more complicated than your run-of-the-mill reboot/remake but it is still releasing nearly 30 years after and it is trying to establish a new Candyman for these younger generations to look forward to so I went into it fresh. Sadly, outside of some of the visual effects and a handful of the performances this film struggles to grip or entice us with the prospect of more. With the risk of sounding harsh, I personally don’t need more if this if the future is more of what we go here.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a highlight in the first half but that fades, as does my man Colman Domingo’s performance, his character taking an unexpectedly unwarranted and unwanted turn. Teyonah Paris is stunning and incredibly likable as is her on-screen brother Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and his partner Kyle Kaminsky. The standout performance is Vanessa Williams who delivers an incredible five minutes as her 1992 character Anne-Marie McCoy before being left behind, never to be seen again.
I genuinely love where I thought the film wanted to go but I regret to say that where it actually went left much to be desired. The overwhelmingly well received moments of laugh-out-loud humor and endearing characters could not save it from uninspired storytelling and bad editing. Unfortunately, I worry that few will be talking about this one past October.