There is a lot to love about Nia DeCosta’s highly-anticipated CANDYMAN, a spiritual sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name. The gimmick of Candyman is simple: say his name five times into a mirror and he appears behind you, breathing down your neck, slicing you open with his hook for a hand. However, the mythology and the themes behind the concept are much more complex, involving the oppression of lower-class Black communities from as far back as the 1890s. My biggest gripe with the 1992 Candyman film was that it didn’t focus enough on these powerful themes, and instead became a somewhat typical slasher flick told from a white perspective. CANDYMAN remedies my concerns and then some, focusing on the gentrification of modern-day Chicago while also highlighting how the legend of the Candyman is emblematic of Black struggle for over a hundred years.
While this improves upon the original Candyman in many ways, it also begets new issues that keep CANDYMAN from being the horror classic that it should be. The film runs at a painfully short hour and 30 minutes, and never gets to the point where the fantastic ideas introduced feel fully developed — an extra 30 minutes or even an hour would have done wonders for the pacing and meaning of this movie. However, the 90 minutes that audiences get are masterfully crafted, with DeCosta giving audiences a quick taste of what hopefully will expand into a wonderful career. The scenes of slasher horror are damn near perfect — DeCosta shows restraint at the right moments while showing just enough death to create some truly disturbing sequences.
With horror movies, every single aspect of the movie must come together in order to truly scare viewers — sound design, score, acting, cinematography, production design, direction, etc. — and everything pulls through with CANDYMAN. The best scenes in this film are some of the best horror scenes all year in these aspects, especially the haunting score from Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and the impressive makeup and visual effects. Unfortunately, the one aspect that sometimes falls short is the screenplay, which often feels rushed and forgets to fully develop its main characters. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, one of the most talented up-and-coming actors in the industry, is never given enough to work with from a character perspective and could have used far more scenes where his character’s personality is seen clearly. Teyonah Parris, another fantastic up-and-coming actress, is almost given a very interesting character arc, but the script never expands on what exactly she is going through, making it difficult to feel on an emotional level. Colman Domingo, one of the best character actors working today, has the most interesting character in the film whose arc is cut short quickly after a sudden plot twist that does not serve any of the characters.
CANDYMAN is roughly two-thirds of a horror masterpiece. Its short runtime takes the amazing concepts regarding the way white society takes advantage of Black creators and culture in general and never expands on them enough to create a cohesive whole. Despite feeling rushed during the last 30 minutes, DeCosta still makes sure to include some memorable scenes of gory slasher goodness, which should satisfy any horror junkies looking for them. In the end, I loved what I got with CANDYMAN, but I just wish I had far more of it.