One of the most promising things when it comes to film right now is the idea of “spiritual sequels” to successful horror movies from decades ago. This first started with 2018’s Halloween, which turned out to be a Grade-A sequel to the 1978 classic. Last month, it was announced that Universal Pictures was making a spiritual sequel to the mega-hit 1973 horror film The Exorcist that will star Leslie Odom Jr; this too can be great given the right script and direction. Right now, Universal is the only studio to go down this path of reintroducing horror icons years and years later. I love the concept of bringing these franchises to the present with the mythology intact because there’s so much you can do. And now, we are presented with another spiritual sequel in the form of a Jordan Peele-produced (and co-written) sequel to 1992’s Candyman. Unfortunately, however, this Candyman is anything but thrilling or buzzworthy.
This Candyman, bearing the same title as its 1992 predecessor, brings audiences back to the same neighborhood in Chicago where the legend of the man with a hook began. Here is where we are introduced to a couple, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Paris), who live together but seem to be on opposite ends of being successful. Anthony, in particular, needs inspiration for his artwork. And that’s when he comes across the legend of Candyman when he’s looking for a new project. But you know how these things go–when someone says a certain name five times in the mirror (or reflection).
Once the excellent opening scene of the film concludes, it loses direction and is all over the place, with scenes between kills dragging out with no end in sight, and there are moments where things just don’t add up. The film, as a whole, feels like a conglomeration of mashed up scenes put together as cohesively as possible without satisfaction. Films, in general, go through multiple cuts/edits, so it’s not uncommon for a film to feel as if it has been cobbled together like this. But that’s largely why this film’s pacing feels so off and never quite gains momentum (except possibly for one brief moment in the third act, and even that quickly evaporates). Given its length (less than 90 minutes), it has little time to spare, so any editing blunders kill the film’s continuity. The film also features one of the worst moments a film has used CGI in recent memory and why it was left unpolished will likely remain a mystery.
But Candyman’s biggest letdown is how it is the fact that it is not thrilling or scary at all to help build the mythology of its title character even more. Sure, there are some strikingly beautiful (and brutal) shots of the man with the hook’s kills courtesy of great work from cinematographer John Guleserian. But you see those kills coming from a mile away and the aftermaths create anything but shock and awe. You witness these bloody events and then think, “OK, what’s next?”
Director Nia DaCosta does a fine job teeing up the connection between her film and the 1992 film while also tying in good social commentary that certainly will be the subject of discussion for fans who see this sequel. The message of this Candyman is its biggest strength, and combined with flashbacks and origin discussions, it helps bridge a strong connection to the original film. And that’s why, aside from the always-underrated Colman Domingo stealing the show, it’s a real shame that the rest of the film whiffs, especially given that the message should have created a slam dunk.
I hope this spiritual-sequel-for-horror-franchises trend continues for the foreseeable future. Friday the 13th? Nightmare on Elm Street? The possibilities are endless, but the results won’t always be good. However, Candyman is merely the end product of something that never should have been. I wanted to love this Candyman; the marketing leading up to the movie’s release was terrific, and everything about the project from the start sounded excellent. But the finished product? A seemingly tasty candy treat that appears to have all the right ingredients but ends up being mostly sour and disappointing.