October 5, 2021
Throughout the years, people have spread countless legends, yet society has almost always left them to wither away. 2021’s Candyman, however, explores a different side to this all-too-common cycle. In this chilling supernatural slasher—which fuses together both horror and cultural commentary—legend does decay yet lives to see another day.
A product of the award-winning screenwriter and director Nia DaCosta’s twisted talent, Candyman secured its long-awaited place in theaters Aug. 27. After COVID-19 pushed its release date back three times from its initial June 2020 debut, the film certainly made a fruitful comeback, garnering as much as $22.3 million its opening weekend.
Candyman acts as a direct sequel to its 1992 original, following visual artist Anthony McCoy (Aquaman star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in present-day Chicago as he seeks inspiration for his next work. McCoy soon encounters laundromat owner William Burke (Colman Domingo) who tells him the legend of the Candyman, a Black hook-handed spirit who, when alive, people thought had given a young white girl a piece of candy with a razor inside of it. The tale maintains that if a person looks in the mirror and says “Candyman” five times, they will summon the Candyman’s spirit, who will then murder them.
As McCoy grows increasingly fascinated by the Candyman’s legend and spreads its reputation through his popular Candyman-themed artwork, numerous violent killings occur seemingly out of nowhere. Additionally, McCoy’s body undergoes an unexpected and unusual transformation: a small bee sting scab on his hand that he received early in the film gradually spreads across his whole body, and he slowly begins to take the form of the grisly, murderous Candyman himself.
It is first essential to understand that Candyman is not a film for those sensitive to blood and guts. From slashed-open necks and severed hands to intense sounds like cracking bones and butchered flesh, this supernatural slasher is packed with gore both visually and audibly. Such realistic carnage, as well as McCoy’s beautifully realistic transformation into the Candyman, would not have been possible without the flawless work of makeup artist J. Anthony Kosar and sound designer Michael Babcock.
The cinematography in this movie is equally as impressive and adds to its suspense. In one scene, audiences view art critic Finley Stevens (Rebecca Spence) in her apartment as the camera gradually zooms out to reveal the entire building. The shot shows Stevens dragging along her window, leaving a trail of blood behind as the Candyman murders her. The scene’s composition emits eerie vibes, as viewers see several other people in the shot minding their own business in their apartments, unaware of the brutal killing taking place so close to them.
Yet Candyman sticks out in ways other than its composition and production. While its suspense, gore and frights might satisfy horror fans, the film contains another layer that has the potential of appealing to an even broader audience: its commentary on social justice, police violence and generational trauma.
According to his legend, when the Candyman was alive, police immediately killed him without constraint after finding out what he did to the young white girl, and it was said the officers beat him until he was barely recognizable. So, while being a grisly spirit with a passion for murder, the Candyman also seems to serve as the embodiment of generational trauma, seeking revenge for the suffering brought upon him. As Burke states in one scene, “A story like that—the pain like that—lasts forever.”
That said, when viewers sit down for this film, they have a choice of what they want to experience: the tale of a murderous boogeyman who takes over an innocent person’s body, or the tale of a traumatized soul whose pain travels eternally from generation to generation. Either way, Candyman is bound to “hook” any audience it finds.
And either way, its legend never dies.