Candyman (2021) (CREDIT: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures)

Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Vanessa Estelle Williams, Rebecca Spence, Brian King, Tony Todd

Director: Nia DaCosta

Running Time: 91 Minutes

Rating: R for The Bloodiest of Hook-Based Violence

Release Date: August 27, 2021 (Theaters)

What’s the DEAL with decades-later horror sequels having the exact same title as the original?! Halloween did it just a few years ago, and now Candyman is getting on the reboot-but-actually-it’s-a-continuation action. I’m not a fan of this trend, and it strikes me as especially dangerous in the case of Candyman. We need some extra words in there so that we don’t accidentally say his name five times in a row! But there’s actually something apt in this case about just recycling the title. Candyman may be overwhelmingly deadly when he appears, but he exists as a whisper and a shadow the rest of the time. So it makes sense that a new generation would be discovering him completely fresh thirty years after his cinematic debut. I would maybe tack on a “The New Generation” subtitle, but the idea behind the repetition is justifiable.

So this may sound a little weird, but just go with me here: the movie that Candyman 2021 most reminds me of is … The Force Awakens. They share a certain kinship in the way that they go about examining their predecessors. These stories have become legends within their universes, and the new characters are fans of the original adventurers who are psyched to meet them. In Candyman Land, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a visual artist who’s been struggling to find inspiration but suddenly becomes full-to-bursting with ideas when he hears tell of a man with a hook who slices and dices his victims after they summon him in a mirror. He’s also soon spending much of his free time listening to the recordings left behind by Helen Lyle, the graduate student who was researching the Candyman in the first film. When you go this deep into the story, you become a part of that story, and oh boy, does Anthony become an integral cog in this tale.

By focusing so squarely on the original, Candyman 2021 is occasionally a little too myopic in its approach. For horror freaks like myself, there’s something bizarrely enjoyable about the unhinged world-building that’s typical of so many spooky sequels but less common in these reboot-style sequels. Writer-director Nia DaCosta’s approach is decidedly laser-focused, which is a good thing insofar as she knows exactly what she’s trying to accomplish and she reminds those of us who loved the original why we loved it so much. But it’s a less-than-good thing insofar as it keeps her movie perhaps too much in check. I haven’t seen either of the first two Candyman sequels that were released in the 90s; as far as I know, neither is highly regarded, but wouldn’t it be cool if DaCosta somehow found a way to incorporate elements of them into her outing? I think so. (Although maybe there are some Easter eggs that I missed… It didn’t feel like that was the case, though.)

All the ducks are in order here: the set pieces are thrilling, the music is chilling, the acting strikes the right range of tones. To sum it all up, I appreciate the lens that New-Candyman focuses on Candyman Original Flavor, but I also believe that it would have benefitted from expanding that lens a bit.

Candyman 2021 is Recommended If You Like: The Force Awakens in terms of the self-awareness, People saying “No! No! No!” right before someone summons something evil, Fun with production logos

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Bees