Pop Culture

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Candyman

Describe This Movie In One The Point Quote:

THE ROCK MAN: You been goofin' with the bees?

Brief Plot Synopsis: Struggling artist finds new inspiration in horror.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 John Ruskins out of 5.
Tagline: "Say it."

Better Tagline: "History is murder."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Nearly 20 years after the mysterious murder/suicide rampage of a grad student investigating the so-called "Candyman" in Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects, those same projects have been razed and renovated. They're now home to artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend, gallery manager Brianna (Teyonah Parris), where the former finds inspiration in the legend, which soon threatens his life, and the lives of those closest to him.
"Critical" Analysis: All horror is political.

Reams have been written and terabytes ... bitten about everything from zombies as an allegory for racism/consumerism to chain-saw massacres representing the loss of a generation to the war in Vietnam (look it up). Anyone who says otherwise is generally unhappy with that a particular film seems to say about them.

The original Candyman was no different, leveraging gentrification and white-on-black violence to craft the story of Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), a ghostly killer who terrifies the residents of the Cabrini-Green projects that rose up on the land where he was murdered.

For it's part, 2021's Candyman also brings up a number of timely themes, such as intra-cultural exploitation and the legacy of gentrification. However, unlike in the original, director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) and co-writer Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) use these to turn the tables on the victimizers.

The filmmakers have made a horror movie for the George Floyd era, which is bound to be ... divisive. Where the original Candyman was largely indiscriminate about his victims, this version points his hook squarely at the new white residents of the area, who are the spiritual (if not literal) descendants of those who tortured and murdered Daniel Robitaille.

Instead of flashbacks, DaCosta uses eerie shadow puppets to depict the death of grad student Helen Lyle in 1992, as well as the death of Robitaille, who — in an act of surprising creativity for a bunch of racists — is murdered by bees after being smeared in honey.

Oh, and they cut off his hand and shoved a hook into the stump. You couldn't come up with a better recipe for creating a supernatural murderer if you went into the Occult Section of the Springfield Elementary library.

But where the puppets are surprisingly effective, the direction is otherwise rather flat. Scares range from the mild jump variety to mild existential dread. There is an admittedly hilarious nod to horror movie tropes involving Brianna and basement stairs.

Part of the problem is that the original had Tony Todd, who was as compelling as he was sinister. Abdul-Mateen, normally a charismatic presence, isn't quite up to the task. And with the running time barely topping 90 minutes, there's little opportunity to dive deeper into the themes Peele and DaCosta surely wanted to resonate (is notoriety/fame worth the lives of others?), and maybe if they had, we wouldn't notice how fundamentally un-frightening the movie really is.

Candyman is in theaters today.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar