Candyman tells the story of an urban legend… A supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, summoned by repeating his name five times into a mirror.

Decades after Chicago’s Cabrini-Green projects become gentrified beyond recognition, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), move into a luxury loft condo. With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini-Green old-timer (Colman Domingo) exposes Anthony to the horrific true story behind Candyman. As Anthony explores these macabre details as fresh inspiration for his art, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence, putting him on a collision course with destiny.

So is this a sequel? Or does it remake the 1992 film?

One of the most impressive things about Nia DaCosta’s Candyman is how the story is crafted. In some ways, you can view this movie as a sequel to the 1992 original; DaCosta sets up some direct tie-ins to that film that longtime fans will appreciate. In fact, she manages to tap into the original lore and expand on it with this film, without making it feel like the first story is being rewritten. A difficult tightrope walk for sure, but it comes together beautifully.

But while it functions as a sequel – and I guess in a way, a prequel – Candyman is also perfectly self-contained. While old fans will catch the references to the 1992 plot, they’re incorporated seamlessly into this new story, making the movie accessible to newbies as well. It definitely stands on its own. As the creative team behind the film puts it, Candyman is a “spiritual sequel” of sorts.

Candyman 2021 Review

Candyman is a film that cuts deep – into its victims and into society. 

It’s an exploration of collective trauma and racial injustice wrapped in a blood-soaked and supernatural urban legend. It’s slasher-movie scary and real-world scary: a beautifully woven, complex web of horror.

But who – or what – is the Candyman? Well, you could say his name five times into a mirror to find out. But the residents of Cabrini-Green know better.

Or at least they did, once upon a time. As the decades passed and the neighborhood gentrified, the urban legend started to become lost to time. Different people moved in, unburdened with the knowledge of a ghostly killer with a hook hand lying in wait behind their reflection. Until a long-time Cabrini-Green resident shares the story with Anthony, who uses it to inspire his next art installation.

A mirror, with the story’s lore. Look into your reflection and say his name five times. Summon the Candyman, and you die.

And well… you can probably guess what happens next.

As the legend spreads, the bodies pile up. 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Stunningly shot and well-crafted

Candyman is a visually impressive film. DaCosta makes all the right choices to spin the story in both beautiful and frightening ways. The movie cleverly plays with reflections to build tension and horror throughout. After all, how can you fight back against something that isn’t even physically in your plane of existence? I know I’ll personally never look at a mirrored elevator the same way again.

Candyman at its core is a story about a perpetual cycle of generational violence; to grasp the longevity of that cycle, we have to dip into the past a bit. Rather than using typical live-action flashbacks however, the movie illustrates these stories like some sort of dark pop-up book. The silhouette puppet figures are both beautiful and eerie, and blend well with the artistic themes of the movie. The end result is something more visually interesting, more thematically relevant, and more haunting than the gruesome cutscenes you would expect.

In fact, for a horror movie with a slasher-flick element, Candyman is overall less gruesome than you’d expect. Most of the deaths occur just off-screen or at a distance, but this only serves to build the tension and mystery surrounding the Candyman. (Don’t worry, gore fans, there’s still enough for you here too.)

On that note, I want to give a shout out to the makeup team on this one. Early in the movie, Anthony is stung by a bee on his hand. That sting turns into a rotting infection that spreads up his arm and across his body, and it is DISGUSTING. (Genuinely stomach-turning. Made my skin crawl. I hate it. I love it. Thank you.)

Buzzing with tension

Candyman is a horror movie that knows just the right buttons to push to raise the tension and keep you on the edge of your seat. 

The thing about a slasher movie is you have a pretty straightforward, singular target when it comes to ending the terror. There’s one specific evil to worry about stopping. Maybe you’ll stop them and they’ll still return like Michael Myers, but you get that downtime of momentary success to relax before the terror starts again.

But Candyman? Candyman is eternal. It moves away from the idea of a single, sudden instance of violence and instead weaves something inevitable, something bigger picture. The hive lives on… whether or not you say his name.

Candyman poster

Candyman hits theaters August 27.