4 November 2021
Candyman sacrifices scares for social commentary. And while a powerfully emotive reflection on hideous white violence, the film falls short of Get Out’s brilliance.
The partner of protagonist Anthony McCoy describes the artist’s work as a literal depiction of symbolic violence. The same could be said of Jordan Peele’s latest production. A far more obvious commentary than the story’s original iteration, the film hits audiences over the head with its somewhat confused allusions to the Black Lives Matter movement.
A spiritual sequel to the 1992 classic, Candyman tells the story of frustrated artist Anthony McCoy’s fatefully destructive obsession in the legend of the titular urban legend. Initially inspired the racially charged gentrification of Chicago’s Cabrini Green, a bee sting and ostensibly chance encounter with long-time resident William Burke soon materialises in a deadly relationship with an (understandably) vengeful spirit.
The confusingly discerning Candyman (he does not kill after the protagonist and his partner after they recite the legendary incantation) reserves his bloody wrath for unsympathetic white folks. The manifestation of decades of brutal racism, Peele’s Candyman is an expression of repressed Black rage, and uncompromising avenger that enacts a particularly bloody form of justice.
Despite this, Candyman is most engaging and effective in its rare comedic scenes. Get Out proved that comedy and social criticism are not mutually exclusive, and this sensibility makes its way into the film’s sly representation of pretentious, self-servingly woke characters of the white arts scene. In the words of Harold Clurmnan, “make them laugh…and while their mouths are open pour truth in.”
Didactic in its approach, Candyman ultimately disappoints in the horror stakes. The candyman’s kills are not particularly original or memorable, and Peele’s monster fails to match the scarily real performance of Tony Todd. That being said, the film is still frightening, albeit in a less supernatural way. Audiences are confronted with the very real threat of ultraviolent law enforcement borne from society’s insidious white supremacy with tales of cyclical torture and degradation of America’s black communities. And despite Candyman’s flaws, this element does leave a lasting impression. “Say his name,” the film’s tagline implores. If only the film matched such masterful comment on the true horror of 2021’s race relations.
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