September 10, 2021 | LIFE | By Annie Knight | Photo by Sierra Romero

When I first heard a movie called “Candyman” was coming to theaters, no part of me was afraid. Candyman sounds more like a character from a board game than the villain in a horror film. However, I was pleasantly surprised by what unfolded once I found myself alone in a dark theater. 

Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” is a remake, and in some ways a sequel, of Bernard Rose’s film of the same name, released in 1992. That film, in turn, was adapted from a Clive Baker short story. I have to admit, I’ve never seen the original “Candyman,” but I quite enjoyed DaCosta’s version. 

While the flick has been making headlines as the first film directed by a Black woman to open at No.1 in the U.S, the film has more to offer than simply monetary wins, though $22.3 million isn’t too shabby. 

“Candyman” follows Anthony, an up-and-coming artist who moves to Cabrini, a gentrified suburb of Chicago. Cabrini is also where Anthony was born, and where the horrors of the original slasher film took place. While searching for inspiration for his next piece, Anthony uncovers the story of Candyman — a disfigured man in a fur trench coat with a meat hook for a hand that appears, and subsequently murders you, in the mirror if you say his name five times. 

Over the course of the film, Anthony’s curiosity quickly turns into obsession as he uncovers the dark history of Candyman and the neighborhood he now calls home. 

Rooted in the urban myth of the ghost in the mirror, Candyman touches on multiple folklore legends. At first, I was brought back to Bloody Mary, but the monster in the mirror is a trope that exists in many cultures. As the movie calls on this universal touchstone, “Candyman” concerns itself with how what lurking in the mirror ties to black culture. 

The film’s tagline “say my name” has explicit ties to the Black Lives Matter movement, and for good reason. Candyman can only enact his revenge when he’s been remembered; the film’s crux however, is that no one can remember who Candyman is

He becomes a conglomeration of every Black person unjustly killed by white bodies and their political institutions. He becomes a stand-in for Black suffering that develops into rage over time. 

Though the film’s political messaging at times lacks subtlety, it elevates “Candyman” from horror flick to social commentary. 

Produced by Jordan Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw (and co-written by the Oscar winner himself), I would expect nothing less. “Candyman” is no “Get Out,” but it’s also not out for cheap thrills. 

Some of the dialogue in the film was cringeworthy (I’m looking at you, “I don’t want you to die tonight, at least not until we fuck”). Additionally, the ending felt rushed. Overall, though, I thought “Candyman” was a solid film, especially in its use of cinematography.

The cinematography team took full advantage of a villain that only exists in mirrors. This led to shots where Candyman appears only in flashes, his victims being choked by seemingly no one; leading to visually dynamic horror sequences. Additionally, DaCosta used mirrors to develop themes surrounding the universal fear of the monster inside us all, a classic trope that invites self-reflection, and one I thought was utilized well for this story. 

“Candyman” won’t go down in history as an amazing horror film, but it accomplishes what films are meant to do: entertain. By the time the lights went up in the theater, it felt like I hadn’t been there for two hours — more like two minutes, I was so enthralled by the film. As a bonus, it leaves you with a few things to think about on the drive home from the theater. If “Candyman” foreshadows the quality of films coming to the theaters this fall, I won’t be disappointed. 

You can see “Candyman” now in theaters only. 

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