As far as reboots go, this new Candyman can at least be commended for going a different route in its style, story, backstory, scares, and emotional and social resonance – it’s just that it doesn’t do any of these in an interesting or thrilling way, and certainly not in a better way than the original.
Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a very successful artist, though perhaps in part thanks to his curator girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris). But trouble brews when he introduces the Candyman lore into his artwork (say his name five times in the mirror and he’ll appear and kill you – classic folk legend spookiness). So a rampage of killings begin, thanks to Anthony’s decision to put the name out there – and it all gets even more twisted when his relation to this supernatural monster is revealed.
Director Nia DaCosta previously made the drama Little Woods and applies the same aesthetic from that film to this one, though doesn’t adjust it much to match the horror genre. The original was brimming with an intensity in its atmosphere, which was not just spooky, but revealing of the social conditions of those living in the terror of the projects – and it also had spookier jump-scares. But there’s never a sense of danger or darkness in this one, with the horror moments played out in such a carefully crafted manner that it alleviates any surprise or shock it may have otherwise elicited.
Amongst a number of intriguing character moments/flashbacks, that usually end up going nowhere, this leads to an unsatisfying ending. The original had a denouement that was inspiring and beautiful because of the social redemption achieved from one woman’s sacrifice. Conversely, this film ends on a mean, confused, and anticlimactic note that doesn’t neatly tie up the big picture like the original was able to masterfully achieve.
There are some brains to this iteration of the series, but no blood. A little added mythology on top of this lore will please the fans as it gives some further life to this folk legend, but it’s a rather unsure film that introduces interesting premises, but never concretely solidifies them into its story. Whether you’re seeking giddy horror thrills or weighty social substance, you’re going to be disappointed.