Candyman

Candyman ★★

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, the repetitive, superficial fourth entry in the horror franchise, is set in Chicago, the same city where Bernard Rose’s original 1992 version of Candyman began the saga by exploring the connection between mythology, urban legends, and anti-Black violence. Those themes haven’t abated since Rose’s film hit theaters — they’ve only intensified. But the new version muddles them, with flat social commentary, and even flatter horror thrills.

DaCosta’s version opens in 1977, as an echoed, haunting rendition of Sammy Davis Jr.’s signature song, “The Candy Man,” jangles. The camera peers over the Cabrini-Green row houses, the infamous housing projects located auspiciously on the city’s affluent north side. The police are patrolling for a local murderer, a Black man with a hook attached to his arm. He’s been accused of putting razor blades in candy and giving it to children, hurting a young white girl in the process.

The residents, including a young Black boy heading to a basement laundry room, avoid the cops who are patrolling for him. The racial dynamics at play, and the overpoliced location, make the situation ripe for trouble. Similar to Rose’s film, DaCosta uses the racial dynamics of Cabrini-Green to set up a story about white-inflicted racial violence, the ways white folks encroach on Black spaces, and the harm that an overzealous police force and apathetic government can cause to neglected Black people.

Several rounds of Black Lives Matter protests and the proliferation of videos capturing Black death at police hands have crystallized Rose’s film as a fantastical folkloric horror, a palpable parable of Black reality, set on a forsaken side of town. DaCosta is the recipient of those themes, responsible for translating them into a story that fits the present racial environment. But her Candyman is a confused, overstuffed web of shallowly presented ideas, including critiques of gentrification and the white critical lens, and a request for Black liberation. [full review via Polygon]