I recently review the 1992 version of Candyman and having now seen the 2021 version of Candyman, this is what I will say: The 2021 version is better. That’s not to take anything away from the original one. I quite liked that one, as my review attested to, but whew, I was blown away by the 2021 iteration. They took the themes of the 1992 one and expanded them while also making this one scarier.
So, I’m not sure why the films have the same name because Candyman 2021 is definitely a spiritual sequel (and Wikipedia is more explicit, calling it a direct sequel) to the original because they directly reference Helen and her project of … well, digging into the urban legends around the projects.
In this one, Anthony McCoy (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who freakin’ killed it as Dr. Manhattan in 2019’s Watchmen TV series, so I’m glad to see him getting more work) plays an artist living in a gentrified version of Cabrini-Green in Chicago with his girlfriend, Brianna (played by Teyonah Parris).
First, I thought having Anthony be an artist is great because of the ability for life to imitate the art, which is what happens. Anthony learns about Candyman from William Burke (played by Colman Domingo), who had an encounter with a different version of Candyman, Sherman Fields (played by Michael Hargrove) 30 years earlier, and creates an art installation about it.
That’s the thing. As in the original, the idea is that the poor minorities in the projects conjured up the legend of Candyman to cope with their socioeconomic and racial predicament. But it’s also that it’s generational. That’s what this film adds. That there’s a legacy of these structures in place. The original Candyman in 1890, killed by a mob; the Candyman of the 1950s; then the Candyman of the 1970s, who was killed by racist police officers; and now the modern-day Candyman. That mirrors (hehe) real life, wherein issues of structural racism are passed down generation to generation. That’s why it’s called structural racism because those structures are still in place, even if places like Cabrini-Green change and become gentrified.
I was also shocked by the twist in this one, where we learn that Anthony, who morphs into Candyman, was the baby in the 1992 film taken by Helen. He didn’t know that though, of course.
And I also thought this one was scarier because of the way the kills were done. Like when the art critic gets killed and we’re moving away from the kill, but we can see her being lifted up and moved about the room. Or the teenage girls killed in the high school bathroom: As I’ve mentioned, we rarely get to see a killer slash in a group. So, that’s always tantalizing and scary.
I also love the wink-and-nod to this being a spiritual sequel to the original. When William Burke has Anthony at the church in front of Brianna, he chops off Anthony’s hand to insert the hook and says something like, “You have to make it your own, but some things have to stay consistent.”
And at the end, we get the original Candyman from the 1890s and played by the original actor, Tony Todd. That was really neat.
I also love the animation used throughout to tell the legend of Candyman.
Overall, I’m quite happy with finally having watched the 1992 version and going out of my way to see the 2021 version. There are great mythos to play with here thematically and within the realm of scaring me.