REVIEW: ‘Candyman’ (2021): 90’s horror icon returns


Ben Kaiser, News Editor

Candyman. Go ahead and try it. Stand in front of your mirror. Candyman. It’s just five times in the mirror. Candyman. If you can do it, he’ll show up and then he’ll kill. Candyman. One more time and he’ll appear. What are you afraid of? Just say his name…

For those that aren’t familiar with “Candyman,” it’s a horror film series that started in 1992. The series is about people summoning the Candyman, a killer specter who was once a praised artist for the wealthy white families in the 18th century. However, as a son of a slave, he was hunted down and brutally murdered by a lynch mob after it was discovered he was a part of an interracial love affair with a white woman. The film series was loosely adapted from a short story written by Clive Barker, who also created “Hellraiser.”

“Candyman” (2021) is directed and screen played by Nia DaCosta. DaCosta is new to the directing world. With “Little Woods” being her only other film as director, there’s not a lot to gauge on how she directs. Both of her films have gotten great reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving Candyman a score of 85 percent and her previous film a solid 95 percent. DaCosta is currently filming “The Marvels”, one of the new MCU movies coming out next year.

“Candyman” stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Us”) as Anthony McCoy, Teyonah Parris (“Dear White People”) as Brianna Cartwright, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (“Misfits”) as Troy Cartwright, and Colman Domingo (“Fear the Walking Dead”) as William Burke. Mostly known for Chicago theatre, Michael Hargrove plays Sherman Fields who would become the new Candyman. The film also has a special appearance by Tony Todd (the original Candyman).

The story follows Anthony McCoy as he follows the legend of Helen Lyle, an urban legend of the Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago. She’s also the main character from the original 1992’s “Candyman.” Hoping to find inspiration for his art career, McCoy instead discovers the legend of the Candyman. This version is of Sherman Fields, a man with a prosthetic hook for a hand, who was wrongfully accused of hiding razor blades in candy and was beaten to death by the police.

Now obsessed with the legend, McCoy creates an art exhibit on the history of Candyman. The exhibit inspires people to try summoning the Candyman as a dare or challenge, which is saying his name five times in any reflection, which he’ll appear to you and then he’ll kill you. Sounds like a fun idea, what could go wrong? The challenge continues spreading and leaving more victims of Candyman, all connected to McCoy. As he becomes more of a suspect, he starts to have hallucinations of the Candyman while his body begins to deteriorate from a nasty bee sting. As McCoy discovers a shocking truth of his past, his fate will draw him back to the Cabrini-Green projects and a disturbed man named William Burke, who has a dark history with the Candyman. Burke wants Candyman to be a tool for vengeance, and his scheme involves McCoy.

This remake of Candyman is actually a blend of a sequel and a reboot. Maybe a sequel-boot or rebootquel? Is that a thing? Anyways, this version of Candyman (Sherman Fields) turns out to be one of several Candymen, starting with Daniel Robitaille from the first film as the original. This creates the Candyman name as a legacy, giving more power to his name. More continuity exists with referencing several events from the first film, even including Helen Lyle as

her own legend. In all honesty, I actually like this way of redoing movies instead of just rewriting the original story. It keeps that nostalgic feel of the original movies while still focusing on the newer story. It also adds a level of immersion; when they recount the events of the first movie as an urban legend, it has that same feeling as a viewer of the original movie.

I mentioned that Candyman has become a legacy now. While the film doesn’t give the audience a clear explanation of how this works, I see this as making Candyman more powerful. His power is based on his name being feared, which may be why most people have a creeped-out feeling when others want to call him. He never wants to be a secret, he wants to be known and feared.

Also, for the Candymen we do see in the movie, their creation into Candyman is always based on racial injustice. The original was killed by the bigotry of seeing a son of a former slave in love with the daughter of a wealthy white family. Sherman Fields (this version’s Candyman) is killed by white cops who rushed to beating him to death instead of arresting him. And these deaths were always in the same area, in different time eras. The legacy of Candyman exists because of racism, and those same crimes spawn different Candymen throughout the time.

This version of Candyman is very different this time around. The original Candyman often had poetic phrases, such as “swallow your horror and let it nourish you” or “I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom.” The newer version is more of a quiet stalker, showing up just to kill those who summon him. What I thought was a great addition to the character as he is only seen in reflections. Without the reflections, you just see people being attacked by an invisible force. One scene, a man is being dragged away with his leg being pulled by the invisible hand. When he’s dragged past glass windows, the reflections show the Candyman pull him. In another scene, a girl is hiding in a bathroom stall as the girls around here are being slaughtered off-screen. It’s only with a fallen makeup mirror that we can see the Candyman killing them.

Something about the calling of Candyman gets me. It’s an incredibly dumb thing to do. It’s exactly like the “Bloody Mary” dare kids would do. Go to the bathroom, turn the lights out and call her name. I think you had to say it three times, maybe. Then she shows up, and depending on who you asked, she either scares you or she reaches for you. I even heard that she cuts you, marks you, or is even supposed to kill you. So why would you do it? To show you how tough you are? That you can confront a killing ghost and it’s no big deal? It’s the same with Candyman. Why? Why would you want to try and call him?

Then again, why do we do a lot of stupid things today online? You know what I’m talking about, Tik-Tokers. Right now, it’s the “Milk Crate” challenge. I’ve seen a few videos and wow, I think many of those falls ended with an ambulance ride. Not even joking. But there was also what’s-her-name with the Gorilla Glue in her hair. The guy who tried to eat corn-on-the-cob strapped to a power drill, thinking “hey, life hack.” Or the freaking Tide Pod challenge. Strangely, “Candyman” is showing how relevant it can be in today’s culture. There’s a scene where after a high schooler hears about Candyman, she challenges her friends in the bathroom to summon him with her. And based on what I’ve seen on social media, I EASILY believe people would be this stupid enough to try this. The Candyman legend would totally cruise off of this trend.

Also, I said Candyman like 38 times. Does that cancel out if I’ve said it more than five times in a review? Asking for a friend…