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Say his name five times in the mirror, and Blumhouse will give him a sequel that ignores the previous sequels and carries the same title as the original. I’m talking about “Candyman” (2021) not “Halloween” (2018) just to clarify. This sequel to — and soft reboot of — the original 1992 slasher film certainly has its sweetness, but this candy has some razor blades in it too. 

It’s been over 20 years since Tony Todd’s hooked-hand demon slashed his way across our screens. The original film starring Todd is somewhat of a cult classic these days, but this new version is decidedly different. It plays to fans of the original but attempts to bridge the gap between cult, gross-out horror and sleek, modern horror cinema. 

“Candyman”is an impeccably shot film, director Nia DaCosta puts her inclination for meticulous, visually arresting cinema on display. DaCosta and cinematographer John Guleserian use the camera to riff on the film’s main motifs of reflections and inverses, giving their picturea leg to stand on by adding a layer without which it would be sorely lacking. 

The two leads, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris, do the rest of the heavy lifting. Both contribute commendable performances to regretfully underwritten characters, particularly in the case of Parris’ Brianna Cartwright who is ultimately reduced to an audience vessel. Abdul-Mateen’s Anthony McCoy is done less of a disservice by the script, mainly due to the fact that we spend much more time with him as we follow his slow descent into madness after summoning the mythical, bee-covered killer. 

Candyman’s redeeming qualities function as a half-inflated life preserver. Helping the film to stay somewhat afloat while eventually failing to compensate for a lack of juice that’s come to be expected when Jordan Peele puts his name on a project. Peele has one of three screenwriting credits here and a producer’s credit to boot. Yet it feels as though the titular slasher took his hooked hand to an unfinished Peele script and spilled the guts all over the screen, then proceeded to beat you over the head with the corpse. 

It’s full of the social commentary expected of a Peele film, but without any of the subtlety and nuance that make his directorial efforts so gripping. DaCosta wants you to know exactly what her message is. Her hand is as heavy as a solid gold hook, while Peele’s is closer to the weight of Tony Todd’s prop. Yet, the commentary on display is certainly an upgrade from 1992’s original, providing a more thought out approach to what the legend of Candyman means to the people of Cabrini-Green in modern America. 

As far as horror flicks go, there is definite popcorn value here. The scares are quite effective, particularly a scene taking place in an elevator, and a shot that sees the camera pull back from an unfortunate art critic. Genre fans will find some meat on these bones, and casual moviegoers looking for an hour and a half scare will leave feeling satisfied. The picture’s more-than-obvious social themes will resonate with some more than others, but it’s better than a hook in the eye. 

Rating: 6/10

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