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SYFY WIRE Candyman

Critics are hooked as DaCosta and Peele's 'Candyman' finds new depths and pays homage to the original

By Nivea Serrao
Candyman Still

After a year-long delay, Candyman will finally be making its way into theaters — all without anyone having to say the film's name (and the name of its titular horror) five times. 

The upcoming release is a direct sequel to the 1992 classic of the same name, which was directed by Bernard Rose and adapted from Clive Barker's (Hellraiser) short story, "The Forbidden." This follow-up sees Nia DaCosta (The Marvels) at the helm of the script, which she co-wrote with Jordan Peele (Nope) and his Monkey Paw Productions co-producer Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone). 

The movie tells the story of Anthony McCoy (Aquaman's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a Black visual artist who moves into the now-gentrified neighborhood of Cabrini Green along with his art gallery director girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (WandaVision's Teyonah Parris). Once the star of the Chicago art community, Anthony is currently dealing with a terrible case of artist's block. So when he learns of the legend of the Candyman he can't help but start incorporating it into his art in an attempt to maintain his relevance. However, much like in the case of Helen Lyle (Swamp Thing's Virginia Madsen) decades ago, Anthony's attempts to tempt fate result in him slowly losing his grip on reality and sees him go up against a force he might not be prepared to handle. 

So far early reviews of the film are noting that not only does this film pay homage to the original movie — and nods to the two sequels that followed — but the movie also adds new layers to an older story, as it once again examines the mythology behind the Candyman himself, and ties it to American history and its lasting impacts on the present. 

Here's what critics have to say:

"DaCosta cleverly refines and develops Candyman as the expression of rage against racism in the era of Black Lives Matter, a supernaturally weaponised scream against Jim Crow and its aftermath; her film investigates Candyman as a symptom of inequality and bad housing (symbolically emerging from a broken interior wall) and the consequent phenomenon of gentrification," says The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw  "The film sports with ideas of how Candyman’s identity is shaped not by an individual creator but, like Godzilla after the nuclear strike, as a therapeutic and cathartic fiction dredged up by the collective unconscious. And as it happens, this new film also hints very obliquely at that key question silently agonised over for decades by Candyman enthusiasts: how long a pause do you have to leave it between saying it for the fourth and final time, before Candyman considers that a reset and makes the fifth 'Candyman' the first one?" 

"Candyman has been remade, by the director Nia DaCosta (I’m pleased to report that Tony Todd is back — he looks a little bit older, and a lot more venerable in his grin of unspeakable pain), and what she has done is to make a horror movie that has its share of enthralling shocks, but one that’s rooted in a richer meditation on the social terror of the Candyman fable. The new Candyman references the plot of the original as a sinister fanfare of shadow puppets, as if to say, 'That was mythology. This is reality.' It’s less a 'slasher film' than a drama with a slasher in the middle of it," says Variety's Owen Glieberman before noting that "Candyman never feels like a formula slasher film, even during the murders... DaCosta stages them with a spurting operatic dread that evokes the grandiloquent sadism of mid-period De Palma."

"It’s a modern update (and in many ways, a remix) of a Black horror landmark, and while it certainly pays homage to the existing saga, it also digs deeper into the mythos, unearthing volatile ideas that had always lurked just beneath the series surface. The result is inventive, introspective, and above all, unsettling" says IGN's Siddhant Adlakha "Without erasing what came before it, the film pushes the character and his mythology in a fascinating new direction, which not only has the potential to re-establish him as a fixture of pop culture, but which acts as a vital course correction, reclaiming who gets to tell the story of Blackness in American cinema." 

"Candyman is not a 'he'…Candyman is the whole damn hive. This line sufficiently summarizes Candyman (2021), a fresh, chilling, and engaging story that expands this universe, crafting its own hive of generational trauma, inheritance, vengeance, urban legend evolution, gentrification, and more. The film deeply evokes the spirit of the original, teetering the line between a direct sequel and a soft reboot that could spark its own era of psychological horror," says Nerdist's Tai Gooden. "This feels like an incredible course correction from the original as Candyman reclaims and redefines his legacy. Will this be the foundation of a new series? Who knows. If so, there’s a lot to explore in future installments. If not, Candyman (2021) is a solid and daring sequel that interweaves the original film while infusing its own lore into an enduring urban legend."

"The reverence that DaCosta and her co-writers, Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, have for the original movie is palpable in many aspects of the new film; from a handful of carefully placed cameos to the way the new story borrows plot points from two ‘90s-era sequels that preceded it," notes iO9's Charles Pulliam-Moore. "But DaCosta’s new slasher flick uniquely situates itself within the horror canon because it understands that stories spotlighting the violence and brutality inflicted upon Black people—foundational elements of America’s identity—have become increasingly en vogue in Hollywood. This sequel dares a new generation of audiences to speak its titular tortured soul’s name, but it does so understanding how the act of saying the names of the countless Black men, women, and children who’ve lost their lives to real racist violence isn’t something that we should do lightly or for entertainment purposes."

"One of the pros of bringing diverse experiences and perspectives behind the lens is that it yields culturally unique takes on common themes. Where Bernard Rose spoke on white anxieties and the image of the scary Black man in 1992, DaCosta expands the conversation, relocating the horror from one man to the many structures that foment brutality upon the Black populace," says The A.V. Club's Anya Stanley. "The Candyman of 2021 represents more than he did three decades ago—indeed, more than a 91-minute movie can adequately explore. But there are worse crimes for a movie to commit than having too many ideas."

"DaCosta matches the artistry of her lead character’s from the opening credits. Every facet of the production is stunning. The bold color palette, Cara Brower’s production design full of mirrors and reflective surfaces for the eponymous boogeyman to lurk, and the tricky shots and framing that DaCosta employs to navigate around those mirrors hold you firm in this movie’s grip from the outset. There’s even an art to the horror." says Bloody Disgusting's Meagan Navarro. "Gore is used thoughtfully and with purpose, and restraint on the bloodletting is just as impactful. Off-screen kills marked by ripping, gurgling sounds, and torrential blood flow can be as effective as seeing an invisible hook ravage a jugular. All of it makes for a rich visual feast that leaves you clamoring for DaCosta to helm another horror feature as soon as possible."

"Viewers who enjoyed the original Candyman will find much to enjoy about DaCosta’s sequel," says ScreenRant's Mae Abdulbaki "The film’s strengths lie in its extraordinary visual palette, with the director's use of art, reflections, and shadow elevating the story’s many themes, leaving the audience with much to think about and dissect afterwards. Even though not all of its storylines get their due by the end, Candyman is haunting and visually striking, providing depth while advancing the story that began decades ago"

Candyman is currently set to open in theaters on Aug. 27. 

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