‘Candyman’ (2021) Review: “Horror Meets Social Commentary”
Gentrification: the process in which wealthy people move into a poor urban area, improve housing, and attract new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process. As somebody that lives in Houston, Texas, I see the effects of gentrification every day. Displacing people because you want to live in the areas you forced them into is never okay. Especially when it’s haunted by forces beyond anything we can imagine. In this case, Cabrini Green, and the great horror icon Candyman.
The 2021 iteration of Candyman is a sequel 19 years later. It focuses on Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a starving artist living in Chicago with his girlfriend/art curator Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris). The couple lives in the gentrified area of Cabrini Green, where a young William Burke (Daejon Staeker) witnesses the murder of an innocent black man. Anthony meets an older William (Colman Domingo) and becomes inspired after hearing the story of Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove). His inspiration turns into an obsession that sends him spiraling on a hunt for the Candyman.
Nia DaCosta directs her major studio debut, and she completely crushes it. Writing the screenplay along with Jordan Peele & Win Rosenfeld, DaCosta assists here as well. Lately, the trend has been to take black trauma – slavery, police brutality, etc. – and capitalize off it. While the film explores black trauma, DaCosta doesn’t make it the center of the story. She, Peele, and Rosenfeld use it as background noise while highlighting Cartwright’s success, McCoy’s talent, and Burke’s mental state. This works well, and it makes the film more terrifying. They use different elements, and technology to create an atmosphere of fear.
John Guleserian’s cinematography was incredible. The mirror shots of Candyman in the kill scenes were awesome, but what really grabbed my attention was the shots of Chicago. Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. and even though Guleserian’s shots were muggy at times they were amazing. The upside-down shots that are mirror images and even street shots of the city showed the beauty of inner Chicago.
The horror in this film is layered. There are definitely a lot of kills, and while gruesome, it does not reveal a lot. I think adding the scenery of these killings would’ve helped the effectiveness of them. They definitely show some of the kills, but I feel like it did not show enough of them. As terrifying as the film is, I think witnessing the other murders would’ve taken this film beyond expectations because it definitely met those. The other horrors in the film are the police and just the presence of Candyman.
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe gave us a haunting score. It was definitely one I’ll remember forever. The score helped build around the fear of Candyman, and even when he wasn’t onscreen you felt it. The synths, the chords, and the strings blend together like morning smoothies. It’s music in its purest form. Truly, it felt like something out of the 80s, and it was great.
Candyman is a cautionary tale. The tale of Daniel Robitaille, a man that fell in love with a white woman, and was murdered for it. Much like Jesse Washington, people gathered and watched him die. There are many stories like this, one of the most famous is Emmett Till. Till was a young black boy from Chicago that was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. People beat him to the point where he was almost unrecognizable. The Chicago ties of Till and the Candyman make this story even eerier.
The film is very much enjoyable. DaCosta has a hit on her hands, and she should get a lot more work, horror or otherwise. What makes it such vital cinema is how it blends social commentary with horror. It’s frightening because past the supernatural things, it’s very real. Candyman is a horror film about a real place in real-time. This is a tale of lineage, heritage, and generational curses. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Candyman is in theaters now.