I saw the original Candyman from the early 90s when I was in high school and liked it just fine. I honestly thought that Virginia Madsen was the best part of that film. I went into this sequel excited to see what direction they would take things and how this new incarnation would play out.
Well, in my opinion Candyman does not live up to the hype that it had going for it. The things that hold this back from being great is the lack of a properly developed story, subpar character development, and the lack of scares. There are some wonderful things within this film, but there aren’t quite enough of them to cover up the flaws.
To me, the best aspect of Candyman is the visual craftsmanship. The opening credits sequence is truly mesmerizing. I was so impressed by the unique look of that credits scene, very big props to director Nia DaCosta. DaCosta makes some very inspired choices here in terms of visuals – choices that help the film quite a bit.
Other than that great credits sequence, there’s also some really interesting puppetry that is used as a way to tell stories from the past. I love that they decided to do the puppetry the way they did – very effective and fresh. There’s also several well filmed scenes that land well because of specific camera angles used by DaCosta. The direction is for sure NOT a negative here.
The other strong suit at play here is the majority of the cast. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is this film’s breakout star for sure. Stewart-Jarrett does a masterful job playing the no nonsense brother of Teyonah Parris’s character. He has a knack for comedy and he’s funny without making his character a stereotype. It’s also so refreshing to see an empowered gay black man in a mainstream film. That is representation that is lacking and I’m very pleased to see it included here.
Yahya Abdul Mateen II is an actor I’ve really liked in past films like Aquaman and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Here Mateen plays our lead and while he does his best and has some nice scenes, the lack of development of his character lets him down. I never felt like I got to know him as a person so therefore I never fully connected to his character. I just wanted to sit down some more with this lead character and get more of a feel of who he is.
Unfortunately, the development of Mateen’s character is very surface level, which ends up hurting the film. Again, it’s not Mateen’s fault, it’s the script’s. I do hope this gets Mateen more work because I want to see more of him – in films with better character development that is.
Teyonah Parris does a nice job here and is always convincing as the partner of Mateen’s character. Her character was definitely more interesting than Mateen’s. The cast does not hurt this film at all, they’re all trying their best with what’s on the page. What’s on the page of this script is unfortunately pretty condensed and lacking in my opinion.
The hour and a half runtime is just too short. The story feels limited and condensed instead of robust and well thought out. I really wanted this film to lay out a compelling chilling plot, but the one that’s presented to us just isn’t developed enough to elicit the reaction it’s going for. It’s easy to see that the ending is trying to go big but there’s no way for an ending to land properly if what lead up to that ending is lacking. The ending does pack some punches for sure but those punches don’t have as much impact as they could have.
Also, I like that this update includes relevant social commentary, but I do feel like they lay it on a tad thick towards the end. The commentary they are laying out needs to penetrate America’s consciousness, no question about it, but I think a slightly more subtle approach would have worked better.
The last thing I’d like to cover is the scare factor. I am absolutely shocked to report that I did not get truly frightened once during this whole film. I almost always flinch or jump at least once in this type of film but not here. The majority of the scares in this film do not work because they are obvious. You see almost all the kills coming from a mile away. It was almost as if they weren’t trying to scare us but instead just show these folks getting slain. Even the elevator scene where Mateen’s character sees Candyman isn’t effective because there is no surprise or anything.
I feel like even people who scare easily can handle this just fine, I can’t imagine anyone would get nightmares from this. Honestly, this film is more nasty than it is scary. There are many moments where Mateen fiddles with the deteriorating flesh on his hand, which gets increasingly disgusting every time he does it. The creep factor needed to be turned up way higher than this.
Candyman has some wonderfully inventive visuals and shows the talent of Nia DaCosta. What ends up holding this film back is the practically nonexistent character development, the underdeveloped story, and the lack of quality scares.
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