• Release Date: 27/08/2021
  • Cast: Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo   
  • Director: Nia DaCosta

Anthony (Yahya Abdul Mateen II), an up-and-coming artist is narrated as a macabre urban legend by his girlfriend’s Brianna’s (Teyonah Parris) brother. The tale lights a fuse in Anthony, who now goes after the story and wishes to create art inspired by the urban legend. He plans to draw paintings that would draw parallels with the urban legends and the dilapidating state of racial harmony and how the dominant classes would go to any length to subjugate and rip benefits of the marginalized classes. His initial work emphasizes the use of physical violence against blacks. His research on the subject takes him to Burke (Colman Domingo), who runs a local Laundromat. Through Burke, Anthony learns of the legend of Candyman and it’s only a matter of time before he starts getting haunted and inconvenienced by what appears to be the spirit of Candyman. As things quickly spiral out of control, Anthony soon learns of his horrifying connection with the Candyman and also why he has been obsessed with the idea and the lore ever since he learned about it.

 A film like Candyman is particularly difficult to review as it goes in so many different directions and each direction is so different from the other and yet is integral to the storytelling.

Anthony and his haunting by the Candyman

The most important track of the story is that of the haunting of Anthony by Candyman. On the first day of his research on the subject, he gets stung by a bee. As the story progresses, the wound progressively gets worse along with his mental state. There soon comes a time when the infection spreads through his body and almost dulls the feeling of pain. This gradual degradation of the physical aspects of the character complimented by the horrifying mental dilapidation into a trauma-induced psychosis is terrifying to watch. Little scenes like when his nails come undone because of the fast-spreading infection and his gradual loss of expressions to complement situations and even extreme pain will be horrifying for many to withstand. The fact that there is a lot of ambiguity about what exactly is happening to him will further enhance the impact and tension of the tragedy.  

Anthony and his history with the Candyman

This is where the film ties back to its original, the 1992 Candyman. The ones who have seen that film will remember Anthony as the kid that was kidnapped by the Candyman and was on the verge of being sacrificed before he was rescued by the protagonist of that film, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen). Helen sacrificed her own life to save the kid Anthony and destroy the Candyman. Helen’s story is referenced through the narrative here and it ties this film not only to the original but also tips the hat to the supernatural and horrific inception of the story. It also reiterates the fact that the story of this film is a continuation of the events that we witnessed in the 1992 film. It is this track of the story that explains why Anthony of all people was chosen by the Candyman for the haunting.  

Burke, his idea of the Candyman, and his own take on the horror

Burke (Colman Domingo) formerly introduces Anthony to the Candyman. He witnessed, as a kid, his sister summoning the Candyman and being killed by him. He also witnessed, as a kid, the horrifying murder of a man named Sherman who had a hook for a hand and was hiding from the police but was discovered when he revealed himself to Burke who got startled and unwittingly gave out a cry. Sherman was a suspect in multiple murder cases. Burke seems to have done some research on the Candyman’s urban legend himself and somehow ties in the inception of the Candyman to the generations of abuse that the black-faced at the hands of the white. Thus he believes the wrongdoers to be the true Candyman and the Candyman to be the only answer to their crimes and a means of keeping them under control. He is obsessed with continuing the urban legend to strike fear at the hearts of the perpetrators and in ensuring that he does some things that are as sinister as the haunting of the Candyman.

Candyman murdering anyone who utters his name 5 times looking in the mirror     

This is the only aspect of the film that is completely tied to the urban legend and has no real-life precedence or inspirations backing up its existence. There are atleast three instances where we witness the Candyman commit horrifying murders. These people are innocent and in one instance, kids. Nevertheless, they meet a brutal end that is shown in one of the most outrageous and yet well-crafted ways. We even witness Candyman kill an art critic for no reason whatsoever. She hadn’t even summoned him. This begs the question, was it the Candyman that committed the murders, or was it Burke or Anthony (in Candyman’s influence) who committed them. There are many questions about these murders that are left unanswered and form the only frustratingly inaccessible aspect of the film and the lore. While every murder committed by the Candyman in the 1992 original was painstakingly explained and had a motive behind it, the acts of violence in this film are random and sometimes very confusing.

Brianna’s point of view on Anthony’s gradual spiral into madness 

The character of Brianna (Teyonah Parris) is an art curator who holds some sway in the Chicago art circuit. Her career is at a critical point and she cannot afford to make any wrong moves. However, she is truly in love with Anthony and has been pushing him forward and even paying his bills that are neither appreciated by her peers nor by Anthony’s mother who thinks that she is doing it all to separate her son from her. However, as Anthony is gradually consumed by the Candyman, Brianna is at first dismissive but then finds herself in the middle of a horrifying predicament when Anthony is kidnapped by Burke and she has to witness some pretty disgusting things being done to him. The film ends with Brianna’s character coming full circle in terms of her arch. Brianna’s character is the closest representation of the audience’s voice in the film.

Final words

Ripe with symbolism and purgative rendition of characters and situations, Candyman is a far cry from its original even though it is a continuation of the same story. Nia DaCosta takes this film far from its roots and makes it nearly in the image of Burke who is disillusioned and tormented by not only the tortures that he has witnessed being meted out to the blacks but also the fear and reverence for the entity of Candyman. While the characters are rich, interesting, and investing, the setting and the household in the film are as much a character as any of the lead actors.

I wouldn’t say that I had a great time with the film as it was so vague about so many things and there wasn’t nearly as much horror as I would have liked it to have. However, what it lacks in horror, it more than makes up for in macabre and gore, and that would either appeal to some or drive away a considerable number of others. The film was nevertheless intriguing enough for me to revisits the original and try to decipher certain aspects of it. Any film that forces you to watch its predecessor for answers has to be given its due. For its brilliant performances, intrigue, and cinematic brilliance that it brings to the table, Candyman merits a view.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)         

Also read: The Wet Ones: A love it or hate it movie with nightmarish dolls

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