Candyman 2021 Movie Review

Candyman Merges True Crime and Urban Legends into one Creepy Movie

We’re getting into scary movie season, and this year fans are going to get more than one that will pull them to theaters. After being delayed over a year, Candyman is finally hitting theaters on Friday, a loose adaptation of the 1992 film Candyman. The cult classic is reimagined by Jordan Peele – but after screening the movie last night, we noticed some nods to other true crimes and urban legends in the film as well.

If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s you probably saw the original Candyman movie. The bogeyman that appears after you say his name five times in the mirror and will kill you. It is similar to the scary sleepover game of Bloody Mary but comes to life – to take yours. It also plays on the yearly fear parents have, and the news portrays of candy with razor blades and drugs in their candy. It’s the fear of the unknown, the scary monsters and all of that wrapped into one film.

What the new Candyman movie does – it gives us a reason for the Candyman to exist. A back story to the boogieman, as well as the community that used him as a reality. It gives us a new genesis to the story and the next generation of the Candyman being born. It talks about the systems that built him, and the reasons he was needed and is still is today.

Yes there is blood, yes there is gore and even more social commentary but the movie seems to be based on so much more than that as well.

The Real Candy Men

The folklore of the Candyman is based on two actual killers. Yes, the reality is actually scarier than fiction most of the time. There is a serial killer who was dubbed The Candy Man, or the pied piper, Dean Corll abducted, abused, and murdered at least 28 teenage boys and young men between 1970 and 1973 in Texas. While the name is the same – he’s not usually the base for the urban legend.

Instead, the story that we’ve been told for years, the one with the razor blade in the candy (which happened so rarely you could count it on your hands) is based on an actual case in the ’70s. This CandyMan was Ronald Clark O’Bryan, nicknamed The Candy Man and The Man Who Killed Halloween, was an American man convicted of killing his eight-year-old son on Halloween 1974 with a potassium cyanide-laced Pixy Stix that was ostensibly collected during a trick or treat outing. His motive – insurance payouts. Again, this case took place in a Texas neighborhood.

While Chicago has its own sorted past, with mob ties and even true crimes of its own like the Tylenol poisoning the story of the Candyman didn’t begin there. So why put the movie there? That is most likely due to the infamy and crimes that are tied to the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, the projects, and the racial inequality that is still prevalent in the area.

The True Crimes at Cabrini-Green

What true crimes can be linked to Cabrini-Green? Probably too many to list in a quick article. Like many other inner-city projects, it was an area the city tried to push minorities to contain them. There were crimes throughout the area, and police often didn’t want to deal with what was happening. A code of silence and different social structure was created in the area – as the movie even brings to light.

One of the most notorious cases, that has been receiving some attention in the last few years is the case of Ruthie Mae McCoy who was murdered in her apartment in the Grace tower at Cabrini-Green. While there were often deaths in the area, Ruthie’s was different in many regards. It took police a long time to respond to her calls for help, and since they didn’t see forced entry – ignored the call until the next day when they found her dead in her apartment. Her attackers actually came in through a gap in the wall behind her bathroom mirror and escaped through the tunnel created between the walls.

Is this the source for the bogeyman coming through the mirror to kill you idea?

With its sorted past, Cabrini-Green still exists – at least in parts. Candyman was actually filmed in some of the remaining buildings. And while the film does focus on the past of projects, the current gentrification of the area is more of an impactful statement and reality.

Pulling from Reality

So yes, Peele’s version of Candyman is a nod back to the original film but it seems to pull a lot of the source material from bits of true crime in the area and even a bit more from the real-life monsters that still scare people today. But the biggest reality and a prevalent theme in all of Peele’s films is the injustice and social inequity of Black Americans today – the systems that are still used to keep a whole segment of our population down. This is probably a more scary part of the movie to see play out than the murder and blood splatter on the screen.

I’ve said it several times before, and I will say it again – I am not a huge fan of horror films. I should probably change that to say I’m don’t a fan of “jump scare” films. But Candyman isn’t that. It does play on the dread and fear inside, but it has a deeper meaning and one that drives it. It actually doesn’t have many moments that will make you jump, but instead fills that with interesting kills that are portrayed through the reflections or off in a distance. It has a bit more gore than I would normally be a fan of. I found myself covering my eyes through the worst of them. But it has that overall dread you would expect from a horror film even if it is a bit of a mixed bag on its source material.

Candyman is in theaters on Friday and is a great pick if you’re looking for an unsettling movie for the upcoming Halloween season.

Overall Rating:

Four and a half Star Review

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About Candyman:

Oscar® winner Jordan Peele unleashes a fresh take on the blood-chilling urban legend: Candyman. Filmmaker Nia DaCosta (Little Woods, upcoming Captain Marvel 2) directs this contemporary incarnation of the cult classic.

For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II; HBO’s Watchmen, Us) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris; If Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials.

With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini-Green old-timer (Colman Domingo; HBO’s Euphoria, Assassination Nation) exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

Universal Pictures presents, from Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld’s Monkeypaw Productions, in association with BRON Creative, Candyman. Candyman is directed by DaCosta, and is produced by Ian Cooper (Us), Rosenfeld and Peele. The screenplay is by Peele & Rosenfeld and DaCosta. The film is based on the 1992 film Candyman, written by Bernard Rose, and the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker. The film’s executive producers are David Kern, Aaron L. Gilbert and Jason Cloth.

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