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CANDYMAN (2021) Review: A Mixed Bag of Horror

A Chicago artist fixates on a local legend and while researching, discovers the game attached to its name is anything but harmless. A sequel to the 1992 supernatural classic, Candyman expands on its predecessor and produces a nicely made film, but doesn’t quite push the horror aspect or elevate the message enough.

Living in Cabrini-Green, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) becomes aware of the dark history of the now gentrified Chicago neighborhood. Hoping to get some creative inspiration for his next art series, he pokes around the remnants of the old projects and has a chance meeting with William (Colman Domingo), a local man who tells him the story of the Candyman.

Intrigued by the tale, Anthony begins digging more into the story, including the work of Helen Lyle, who’s become a legend herself. As his obsession grows—concerning his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris)—he utters the name and unknowingly summons the vengeful spirit.

Directed by Nia DaCosta, and written alongside Jordan Peele and Win RosenfeldCandyman succeeds in connecting with the original film in a seamless way. There are plenty of callbacks, references, and cameos, which please those looking for a solid tie-in. Though, it could disappoint those expecting a totally original tale.

DaCosta does an incredible job directing with a consistent style that feels very specific to the film. The artistic framing of scenes that linger. Even mesmerizing opening and end credits. She’s certainly crafted something her own, and I think that’s worth noting, especially considering the film being painfully mistaken over and over for Jordan Peele’s.

There are solid performances throughout, with Abdul-Mateen II delivering an unsettling and somewhat emotional turn as Anthony. He was a great lead that seemed ready to take it to the level of terror it needed, even if it doesn’t quite hit the spot. The script adds in the right amount of humor to balance the dark tone, a lot of which rides on Nathan Stewart-Jarrett‘s character. And while it felt fresh and fun, it may have been more necessary had the film hit that terror threshold.

While there are some wonderfully creepy scenes and imagery, the impact feels a little weak. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking from what we saw in the original, which still holds up today. All that culminates in a rather bland ending that felt a bit underwhelming.

For a film whose message is so clear, it somehow feels so shoehorned in at the end. It almost needed more time to fully complete the story progression and how exactly it all ties together. But even if it doesn’t fully meet expectations, it still makes for a great watch, which is why it’s sadly such a mixed bag.

Candyman is now in theaters

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