The 1992 cult classic slasher film “Candyman,” got a direct sequel this year on August 27th. The film is directed by Nia DaCosta. The film takes its inspiration from a 1985 short story “The Forbidden” from the collection “Books of Blood” written by Clive Barker. It’s about the legend of the “Candyman”, who is the ghost of an artist and the son of a slave who was murdered in the 19th century.
The 2021 version ignores the sequels “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)” and “Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).” The story picks up directly from the 1992 original and stars Virginia Madsen and Vanessa Williams as the story’s central characters.
DaCosta’s Candyman starts from present-day Chicago, yet beautifully connecting it with the 1992 original. A visual artist, Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend, Brianna live in a luxurious apartment near the now destroyed Cabrini Green housing.
Anthony’s creative spark seems to be dulling out. So, when he hears about the urban legend of the Candyman, he desperately heads for a walk around the Cabrini-Green. With a very smooth transition, the writers have created instances that get Anthony involved in the story of Candyman. He coincidentally ends up meeting William Burke who owns a laundromat, Anthony asks about the legend of “the Candyman.” Burke then tells Anthony about a childhood incident that really shook him. He ran into a man named Sherman Fields, a man who had a hook in place of his hand. At this point, the directors have created enough intrigue for the audience as well, as to who the Candyman was and what he did? The jump scares don’t start yet.
Carrying on with the story Burke tells Anthony that the police believed that this person was putting razor blades insides candies and handing them out to children. The incident was taken into notice when a candy ended up in the hands of a white girl.
As a kid Burke notified the police about his presence in one of the buildings in the area, eventually leading the police to find and beat Sherman to death. Despite the fact that Sherman was no more alive, the children were still receiving razor blade candies which led to rule out the idea that Sherman was responsible for the act. However, the urban legend implies that if somebody takes the name “Candyman” five times in front of the mirror, Sherman’s spirit appeared and killed the summoner. The filmmakers have not missed any chance to keep reminding the audience of reflections and mirrors, slowly and gradually building up fear in their subconscious.
Now here is where the real thrill starts to develop with its own pace, however, not to be mistaken, the film is not a slow-burner. Anthony is truly inspired by the story and gets on to develop an art exhibition themed on the legend of the “Candyman.” The exhibition takes place in the art gallery that Brianna, Anthony’s girlfriend owns.
Anthony expects a lot from the exhibition but to his dismay, the exhibition is not well received by the audience and neither are any positive reactions from critics. Wrapping up the exhibition, at night one of the workers at Brianna’s gallery and his girlfriend take the “Candyman’s” name five times in front of one of Anthony’s art pieces consisting of a mirror. The two are found slaughtered and the legend spreads, resulting in more people getting killed by taking his name including a group of teenage girls and an art critic. The use of shadows is also a critical part of the film which heightens up the intensity of the gore depicted.
The storyline also questions art and its perception, especially when a Black artist is invoved. Fast forward Anthony gets stung by a bee on the hand, causing a huge scab that starts to spread all over his body and that’s when his physical transformation starts to begin. At this point, the bee sting doesn’t seem to be an important part but it plays a pivotal role in the development of the story.
When goes to the hospital, he is shocked to learn that his mother, Anne-Marie, had hidden from him about where he was born. After confronting his mother and forcing her to tell the truth, she reveals to him that he is the same baby that Helen tried to sacrifice that night. The film captures Anthony’s emotional reaction so well that it keeps on lingering on the viewer’s mind.
Although the film has several jump-scares at the right time, the real horror starts when Anthony leaves to walk around the Cabrini-Green row houses. In search of Anthony, Brianna realizes that Burke was the first person to mention the “Candyman,” and so, she too goes to the Cabrini-Green to find them both. As she reaches Burke’s laundromat, she is suddenly attacked by Burke, who then takes her to an abandoned church where she sees Anthony. This particular part is really not for the faint-hearted as his physical state is now horrendously deteriorated. Anthony is in a delusional state however, he still tries to save Brianna but to no avail.
The twist in the story here leaves the audience shocked. Burke reveals that he did not only witness Sherman’s death but also saw his spirit returning as the “Candyman.” He also saw him murdering his sister and her friend who summoned him. As an act of vengeance Burke plans to have the police gun down Anthony and create a new instrument with Candyman. It is a clear act of vengeance and not a show of Black pain and suffering.
To completely transform Anthony into the Candyman, Burke cuts off his right hand with a saw and fixes a hook on it instead.
Brianna’s luck shines at the right time and she manages to escape the church while Burke chases her, during their chase, she stabs Burke to death. Anthony comes to Brianna but collapses into her arms by this time, the police arrive and believing in what Burke told them shoot Anthony down to death.
Brianna is then arrested and handcuffed by the police. She is then forced by an officer into agreeing that it was because of her that the police were provoked into shooting Anthony. A very clever and unexpected scene is set when Brianna is sitting in the police car, she looks into the rear mirror and summons the Candyman, who is now Anthony! Anthony takes on the appearance of Robitaille and massacres the police.