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Blu-ray Review: Candyman

November 30, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Nia DaCosta, and produced by Jordan Peele under his Monkeypaw banner, Candyman is a legacy sequel that directly follows the 1992 horror film of the same name (which already received a pair of followups in 1995 and 1999).

The original Candyman was Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), a Black man who was murdered in the 1800s and became a folkloric, hook-handed figure haunting Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects who could be summoned by saying his name five times in front of a mirror.

DaCosta and Peele’s film builds upon the mythology of this Black horror icon, by exploring the character through a modern lens and leaning heavily into social commentary about gentrification, cyclical racism and police violence. The result is a more high-minded genre film that is often well crafted on a technical level and has some effective moments, but also feels rushed and can’t quite sustain itself at the end.

The main character is Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist who has just moved into a gentrified neighbourhood in Chicago’s Northside with his art gallery director girlfriend Bri (Teyonah Parris), built where the infamous Cabrini-Green used to be. Unable to find inspiration for his next piece, with art dealer Clive Privler (Brian King) breathing down his neck, Anthony starts poking around the history of Cabrini-Green, and uncovers the old stories about Candyman. His biggest source of knowledge is the owner of a local laundromat, William Burke (Colman Domingo), a character introduced in the film’s prologue, who encountered a version of Candyman as a child.

As Anthony does a series of increasingly abstract paintings inspired by Candyman and other Black man who have been killed, he starts to lose his grip on reality. From here, Candyman essentially becomes an allegory for intergenerational trauma and racist violence (the title of Anthony’s exhibit, “Say My Name,” is meant to recall the current racial justice rallying cry), that feels especially charged post-2020 (it was actually shot in 2019, and had its release date pushed back several times due to the pandemic).

This is only DaCosta’s second film, and she does show promise as a visual stylist. The film features some solid stylistic flourishes, including moody flashbacks done using shadow puppets. In general, Candyman is a sleek and handsome production, with cinematographer John Guleserian staging some interesting shot compositions, including a few effective uses of mirrors. But the film feels short at 91 minutes (only 86 to credits), and the screenplay (which is credited to Peele, DaCosta and Win Rosenfeld) ultimately tries to pack too much mythology into such a brief running time, not to mention a good deal of social commentary as well.

A sequence involving a white teen girl summoning Candyman in her high school bathroom is fairly well staged, but her storyline is underdeveloped and feels somewhat plopped in the middle. The last act also feels rushed and somewhat heavy-handed, becoming an almost frustratingly literal and unambiguous exploration of the story’s themes. What we are left with is a horror film that has some good moments and a few interesting ideas, but it somewhat collapses under its own weight by the end.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a variety of bonus features, roughly an hour’s worth in total. A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which comes with an embossed slipcover.

Alternate Ending (2 minutes, 38 seconds)

Deleted and Extended Scenes (5 minutes, 52 seconds) A selection of three extended scenes, adding more dialogue to moments that are still in the movie.

Who Do You Think Makes the Hood? (2 minutes, 56 seconds)

Wanna See Me Fly? (1 minute, 44 seconds)

Fooked Oop (1 minute, 9 seconds)

Say My Name (6 minutes, 45 seconds): This featurette focuses on the themes of gentrification and police brutality running through the film, and how the filmmakers approached exploring them in a more modern context compared to the original.

Body Horror (6 minutes, 22 seconds): A look at the makeup and practical effects in the film, with DaCosta citing David Cronenberg’s The Fly as an inspiration.

The Filmmaker’s Eye: Nia DaCosta (4 minutes, 48 seconds): Explores DaCosta’s visual aesthetic and approach to continuing the story of the original, as well as the importance of having a Black perspective.

Painting Chaos (7 minutes, 17 seconds): Looks at the use of art within the story, and the artists who were commissioned to do Anthony’s paintings seen in the film.

The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (4 minutes, 54 seconds): A fascinating glimpse into the recording process of composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, and how he used Philip Glass’ score in the original as an inspiration. He talks about how he incorporated vocal elements, ambient sounds recorded in the rundown row houses of Cabrini-Green, and contributions from cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir into his soundtrack for the 2021 film.

Terror in the Shadows (4 minutes, 9 seconds): A deeper dive into the meaning behind the film’s shadow puppet flashbacks (Peele’s idea), and how they were brought to life by the company Manual Cinema.

Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror (20 minutes, 24 seconds): A fairly interesting discussion of the film hosted by Colman Domingo. The guests (Tananarive Due, Dr. Wendy Ashley, Yolo Akili Robinson and Lorenzo Lewis) watch and react to clips from the film, unpacking the story’s themes, and discussing the healing power of horror.

Candyman is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 91 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: November 16th, 2021

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