Candyman

Candyman ★½

A competent enough sequel to the original, the film fails for never capitalizing on the interesting threads it sets up. We have some potentially rich themes here (the artworld and culture's at large mining of black suffering, the concomitant compromises black artists have to make to make it in that world, the simultaneous identification with and alienation from largely poor black suffering taken up by upper class black people), some potentially rich character directions (Anthony's loss of identity as he is consumed by Candyman, Brianna's concern for him as a partner paired with her ability to profit from his state as a tortured artist), and some potentially rich symbolism, none of which is carried through.

It is in the last department that the film comes closest to capitalizing. The film makes Candyman a cruel, vengeful spirit created and reinvigorated by the murders of black men by white people which hopefully can be wielded to destroy those and that which enabled such violence. There are three choices which undermine the impact of this suggestion: this hope is born only by one crazed side-character, there is precious little sense of a community particularly suffering from these injustices, and the forces of oppression are strangely sidelined. The police are a strangely fleeting presence, definitely evil in their two major appearances but far from commanding an omnipresent dread that would make their deaths at the hands of the Candyman cathartic or potent. Racism is certainly given a place in the film, but it is an oddly peripheral one: the characters grasp the history of racial violence but it is not made especially personal, their day-to-day exposure consisting largely in microaggressions at the hands of affluent liberals. In this regard, the film is strangely politically moderate: condemning police murder without embracing any radical or even particular response thereto.

If the film had been given another half an hour or a more focused rewrite, it could have been a good, smart horror movie. As is, it is not even a good, dumb horror movie. The filmmaking is mostly solid, but it is too restrained for its own good. It does not go hard enough on the spooks to be frightening or thrilling. It does not go far enough with the gore to be visceral. It does not go weird enough to be memorable. As someone who quite enjoyed the 1992 original without holding it in very high esteem, I was excited for what could be done with the property. Given that, this is one of the more disappointing recent watches.

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