Candyman (2021)

Starring: Yaya Abdul Mateen, Tiana Paris, Coleman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kyle Kamansky, and Vanessa Williams.

Directed By: Nia Dacosta

Where I Watched It: on Demand

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

Narration Written By: Christina Stephens and Matthew Christoffersen

Narrated By: john Bentley

The Plot: Following the trend of reboot/sequels, now lovingly called requels, Candyman takes the lore that has already been established by two theatrical ventures, and some straight to video, about a killer with a hook for a hand, who is also engulfed by bees, who likes to be called The Candyman, and if you look into a mirror and say his name five times, he’ll appear and kill you. Fun fact: If you say his name, then Bloody Mary, and keep alternating back and forth, you enter a cheat code, and the two battle it out in Mortal Kombat.

What Works: I know I didn’t really get into the plot, but I’ll touch on that here. One of the foundations of a requel is to bring back something from the original film. That thing (officially, without spoilers) is Vanessa Williams, who puts in a presence, as she still lives in the same damn area from the first film, which is now being gentrified to death (this is written by Jordan Peele by the way), and our new cast of characters are trying to uncover this strange urban legend that seemingly just won’t die.

So, it was nice seeing Vanessa Williams in a substantial project. I was expecting more Tony Todd than we get, so that was disappointing. But then again, i did have a really hard time figuring out who the fuck Candyman was, and whether or not I actually missed a ton of backstory in all those damn sequels.

The truth is, just like I predicted after watching the original, we went nuts on the gore here. And, as I will get to it later, it’s actually correctly narrated by John Bradley, so you can revel in all the gross out imagery you can’t actually see. but believe me, this film is more violent, and not afraid to let you know.

The plot wanders a bit, but three very capable new faces hold this shit together. First off, Yaya Abdul Mateen is really coming into his own, and while I can think of a thousand projects better suited for his talents, he does shine in this role, as the main struggling artist seemingly plagued by the bee man. Tiana Paris, who was so brilliant in WandaVision, is given a lot to do here, and ends up being the emotional core of the film, and the token “final girl” that all good horror films require.

Finally, Coleman Domingo, a constant force in everything he does is the poor soul tasked with going over the history of Candyman, and he just beat the guy from the original by a mile. He makes it seem far more realistic, and creeepy, while the original just told a stupid story that shouldn’t scare anyone. The film still features this problem where they know all this damn historical backstory about this guy, but still won’t say his damn name. Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees all have fucking names. This dude has a name. you can’t know that much about someone from the reconstruction era and not have any clue what his name was.

Finally, despite the fact that this franchise still has its failing, we have Jordan Peele. Sure, he didn’t direct it, which is why the film isn’t perfect, but he did write a script, which is loaded with 2021 current feelings towards police officers and racial profiling. Peele is always a filmmaker with purpose and intention, and that bleeds out profusely here. he clearly has something he needs to say, and while Candyman might be an odd vessel for that, he manages to elevate this material.

on a side note, having waited to watch this until after Bel Air, when I first head the actor who also plays Carlton in the reboot, all I could imagine was Carlton, and that made all of his scenes unintentionally hilarious. That’s just a unique experience for me. i doubt anyone else would mirror that.

What Doesn’t Work: i really couldn’t figure out what they were doing with Candyman. Like, does Candyman keep becoming new people? At one point they list multiple names, they recount Helen’s story from the first film (but from the perspective that she killed all those people), and even though the original clearly showed us that Helen had the ability to pop up like Candyman post-mortem, she doesn’t seem to be one of the potential Candyman, in the list. I really tried following that logic, as to who was Candyman, and why Tony Todd wasn’t featured more in this film, but I had a really hard time.

To be clear, i do understand the ending. I do understand what was happening there, but it was just connecting the first film to the requel, and having to go through all that backstory, I felt like I missed a lot.

in the original, even though he was called Candyman, it just never made sense, because there wasn’t candy involved. Here, the Candyman does leave behind candy in some attempt to validate his name. It’s still a bizarre character. Why is he covered in bees? Was a guy with a hook not scary enough? he also needed the ability to control bees? How did we come to this logic?

Like, if Michael Myers had his knife, and his creepy mask and stalking powers, but also could summon bats, wouldn’t that be random/ Even if you write some crazy backstory, it still doesn’t make it any less crazy.

And this film STILL absolutely refuses to follow its own rules. Look, if Freddy just walked around in broad daylight, we’d have a very different franchise. But it’s the fear of falling asleep that can kill you. It’s the trying to stay awake, and having kids being murdered in their sleep. That’s what makes Freddy work.

And Candyman has a very simple set of rules. Say his name five times into a mirror, he shows up, you die. That’s SO easy. It makes up for how asinine his backstory actually is. yet, just like the first film, he still murders people who DID NOT SAY HIS NAME. he just does whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it. If you just so happen to be near someone saying Candyman, you’re gonna die. If you try to mix and match, with a group of people, he’ll take whatever he can get… or will he?

Having the multiple people doing the Candyman, with two people adding up slowly to five total before he appears seems to be a valid way to summon him… until it’s not. until they just don’t fucking care anymore. Those girls? What were there? Four of them? Five? Yes, they said it simultaneously, but they shouldn’t have had to that many times. By the second repetition, by the rules set forth in other killings, his nname has already been said five times. Done. Why would he wait?

That’s because this franchise is fundamentally stupid, and I’m sorry that I keep offending Candyman fans. But your dude has rules, and no writer or director is ever interested in actually following them. Don’t make rules you can’t follow. The thing is, you write the film, you produce the film, you direct the film. It’s all in your hands, and if the team making the film finds it too restrictive to follow the rules they bother to have a character stipulate for the audience, then don’t bother. Don’t have rules. Just make Candyman a vengeful asshole who haunts this particular area and kills people who deserve it, or whatever. But, despite every attempt to make you feel otherwise, you do not have to say his name five times in order to be murdered, and if he likes you enough, you can say his name five times and survive the film. Or, you can partake in a mixed mode version, and be the one of multiple people who survives.

And that’s still stupid.

The Blind Perspective: john Bradley’s description here is pitch perfect for a horror film. His focus on the scares and the gore is exactly what you would want from audio description for a horror film. My problems with this project have nothing to do with the audio description. For a film in this genre, it does everything right. it’s creepy as hell, and it knows exactly what genre it has been made for.

Final Thoughts: I know most horro villains are kinda breaking logic all the time. There’s always this “how did they get there?” Type feel, like they can teleport. But those rules are never stipulated the way Candyman has his rules laid out. They go out of their way to make sure you know the rules, and the characters know the rules. There’s a ton of imagery here around “say his name”, with that being a key focal point as the words are written in various places. So, it stands to reason, that if you don’t say his name, you should be fine. I should be able to be in a room, watch someone stand in front of a mirror, where they say it five times, and when Candyman pops out and murders them, he just tips his hat at me, and bids me a good day and goes about his day. Because I followed the rules of survival. This franchise literally has the easiest rules of survival, just don’t say the name. Yet somehow, people keep doing it, and even people who don’t keep dying.

And if Jordan Peele wasn’t behind this, and three cast members weren’t here and instead we had random undiscovered talent, this film would be hot garbage. But, with the presence of Jordan Peele in the script, and three amazing actors, somehow, they salvage this nonsense just a little. It certainly is better than the original, and for a blind audience, john Bradley’s narration makes that a no contest. He absolutely wins the battle of the narrators.

Final Grade: C+

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