Recently, I saw the new Candyman. I had low expectations going in because remakes of classic horror films have a history of being bad. I was relieved to find out it's a direct sequel to the 1992 Clive Barker masterpiece, ignoring the other two films. Seeing the original helps add context but it's not necessary. I'll keep this SPOILER-FREE because it's only in theatres. The urban legend of Candyman from Cabrini Green is introduced early. An artist is obsessed. He becomes the focus of his art, reflecting on his tragic story. Curious skeptics say Candyman five times learning the hard way why it's unwise to doubt. Does this get you hooked or should it get the hook?
Director Nia DaCosta has done lesser-known independent films. This gives it a distinctive stylized look. I liked the clever use of mirrors. The way scenes are framed combined with the camera movement makes what your seeing visually interesting. It's beautifully shot, injecting an artsy feel, unlike most big-budget horror films. It opens on a foggy upside down moving wide shot of Chicago. It made me wonder how she shot that, classic movie magic.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Anthony the artist. He's been in The Greatest Showman and Aquaman. He says he's struggling but it's not shown. His performance isn't memorable. His reactions to Candyman aren't convincing either. In the original, Helen is questioned and committed to a mental institution. Anthony isn't even investigated. His art show is mentioned on the news in connection to the murders but no cops hassle him. That's a missed opportunity for racial profiling, crime reform, and police brutality issues. He's not even a street artist doing graffiti, he's a traditional painter. It takes place in the pretentious upper-class art world reminding me of Velvet Buzzsaw. He could have been a victim of the system because of his graffiti which could've tied into the original too. How is he not a suspect? Worse, his character is written as an apathetic jerk with no redeeming qualities.
Speaking of writers, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta penned the script. It starts strong but eventually flies off course. I liked the connections to the original but characters pile on discussions of social injustices by saying generic things like gentrification is bad. They don't show, they tell. There is no subtlety, only heavy-handed messages. The original had subtext communicated through the story. Actions took place in which characters reacted. It could have been provocative. It's not an emotional story. The underdeveloped character's subplots go nowhere. I didn't feel for these characters. I felt something in the original.
Also, I need to address this because it's happened in three films. It's starting to become annoying. Why are all the white people dumbed down and/or vilified in Jordan Peele's films? There's no context aside from their evil White racists in this film. What about racism from other races? Why not show black-on-black racial violence? Films like Do the Right Thing, Straight Outta Compton, and Boyz N Da Hood depict other perspectives to add realism because all races are guilty of racism. It seems forced without any depth to it. The writing is rushed resulting in an inconsistent mood lacking atmosphere. The comedy aspect doesn't work. It feels like three different movies clashing.
The Candyman aspect seemed like an afterthought. He's not scary. They didn't do the character justice by putting self-righteous social/political statements above the Candyman and horror elements. There's no tension. Candyman tormented his victims on many levels. He manipulated his victims. He doesn't even say his classic line "Be my victim." I waited the whole time with no payoff. He barely talks. Imagine a Freddy movie without him speaking. He doesn't have a menacing presence of looming dread. All the deaths are off-screen. It's supposed to be a slasher flick. It had good body horror scenes but those are few and far between. It also does some of my horror pet peeves like the overuse of jumps scares and CGI. Why not use fake blood? Then actors have something to react to. And why do horror movies abruptly stop at the end? The first thing I thought when the credits rolled was "That's it?" It feels too short, clocking in at 90 minutes.
Overall, I like how they made ties to the original and how they continued the Candyman legacy. I understand what the film is saying; I just thought it could’ve been more personal. I understand. I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of things being white myself, but I appreciate other perspectives. Instead of putting me in the character’s shoes, it falls flat because of sloppy writing above all else. It was underwhelming, leaving me disappointed. I wasn’t hooked. I don’t think it’s worth seeing in theatres, nor would I watch it again, but it’s worth giving it a chance when streaming because its messages are so important. It’s average, so it gets the hook. And remember, I dare you to read this review aloud in front of a bathroom mirror because I mentioned Candyman more than 5 times.
Grade: Small Popcorn