Before I share my thoughts on Candyman (2021), which I get into quite extensively about halfway into this write-up, I want to share with you the IMDB reviews for Candyman because I’m pretty sure it’s being review bombed. I’m not going to say that it’s from a bunch of white supremacists, reactionary keyboard warriors, or fragile white men who’ve never even breathed in the same room as a woman who didn’t find them repulsive. I’m not going to say that. Either way, some of these reviews will make your brain hurt with titles such as “Only kills white people” and “Racially charged mess” – a review whose first line is “I’ve never seen the originally but a fan of horror/thrillers. This is a huge disappointment.“, typo and all (Editor’s Note: This review has been removed likely because my assumption is correct: Candyman (2021) is currently being review bombed on IMDB. Other users are noticing the same thing as well, as seen by this review.).
Seriously, there needs to be a dissection of these reviews so you can really get how ridiculous the hate is for this movie. A hate that makes no sense when considering the themes of the first film. But what a surprise that when a Black person makes something successful (or overtly socially charged) a buncha whiteys gonna decry propaganda (as they consume their neo-political podcasts at 2x speed so they can get in as much in a single day).
Maybe you’re thinking I’m going overboard with the generalizations. I 100% am. That’s part of ventilation, part of blogging, part of writing something spicy. That said, I’m going to show off some of what I’ve observed over at IMDB. Here’s a bunch of reviews, with links, and a key phrase that makes it clear that a bunch of people decided to target a movie by a Black person (extra points for these people that it’s a Black woman, I guess?) because it was “too political” (as if it were still 2009 and people were complaining like this anymore).
- This movie was a disgrace to Candyman: “Using a horror Icon. One of my favorite all time to push a social message on people is a travesty.”
- Did I miss something???: “The racial undertones in this movie is nauseating and I guess now Candyman is the “Dark Avenger” for racial injustice.” (Editor’s note: this person had only 4 other reviews, one of which was a positive review for Gotti, a film notorious for being an absolute mess. But hey, we all have our guilty favorites.)
- Bitterly disappointed.: “There was some dialogue in the first 15 minutes around race/white supremacy that took me out of the movie instantly. It took me about 10 minutes to think of anything else, but lucky for me, there was not much to miss.”
- Even if you get free tickets to a screening, burn them.: “I used to respect and love Jordan Peele back in his Key and Peele days but looks like the woke mafia and fame got to his head.” (Editor’s Note: this person has made a list titled “10 of the most insanely beautiful classy English Women in no particular order” which is really weird lol)
- Abysmall… Candyman takes the background seat to political propaganda: “The title of the story is misleading and facade. This is plain one sided, fabricated truths, divisive instead of trying to portray a chance of unity. Just endless victimization and no responsibility taken for anything.”
- Political agenda movie, no terror, no suspense: “Political phrases repeating over and over again, focusing the script only to meet the political demands of the industry.” (Editor’s Note: This original review has also been removed.)
- WOW: “It’s like if American history X was film with a new ending where the brother became the new Hitler.”
- What happened to horror…: “It has become like everything else and is about how the white man is bad… This is a shame that all this a political film and NOT a horror film…”
- Why Bother?: “If your a Caucasian considering going to pay money to watch this be warned! Hollywood and the Woke at it again. Why does Hollywood hate white people? Why are the police in this movie all write and made out to be the most evil Devils ? I am so sick of this kind of movie,(if you call it that?).” (Editor’s Note: this is their entire review, and they only have 3 reviews in total on the site. Also, their review for Malignant is positive because it’s “not Woke for a change!”, among other things // Additionally, this review has been removed. Wow, I wonder what got it removed?? Strange. /sarcasm)
- Too much politics, not enough Candyman.: “The politics around it just drowned the movie. I don’t watch horror movies, or any movies, to get politics involved, I don’t wanna sit there and be annoyed with this stuff I’m watching. It takes my mind off the movie completley.” and “Don’t involve politic views in your movies, please stop.”
I could go on, but a few things of note:
- Many of these accounts, though not all of them, had one or two reviews, or none at all. Is it true that they were so enraged by this film that they felt inclined to write a review, angrily creating a password and attaching an email to an IMDB account just to vent their frustration? Or, is it typical mob mentality of review bombing. I can never tell, and I’m sure most of it is disingenuous (or, at least, uneducated. More on that later).
- There’s really no way of confirming if these accounts are from exclusively white men. It’s just fun to poke fun. Some of these accounts state that they’re from other ethnicities (the one that made that creepy “women ranking” list stated they were Indian in one of the reviews). I’m sure if I really wanted to investigate their origins, I could find out where they’re from. Regardless, please know that I understand these reviews are genderless, colorless, and simply anonymous reviews. Despite this, context clues do exist, so let’s be real with ourselves, okay?
But, in the end, I don’t really care. The reviews are clear. Apart from their focus on being “drowned” in woke culture, they also routinely complain about the film not being horrific enough. Sure. Even Daniel, my cohost, stated he didn’t think Candyman (2021) was particularly scary apart from the first kill. That’s fair, considering most of the kills are from a distance or off-screen, but you have to wonder about the mentality of both someone fragile enough to be bothered by socio-economic observations in a movie and wanting to ogle the death of women (as the kills that take place from a distance, or off screen, are specifically white females). I suppose it would make sense for a man who is willing to make a list on IMDB ranking white women, a demeaning act of objectification, to be frustrated that he couldn’t watch women be objectified violently through murder.
Am I pot calling the kettle black? I am a fan of horror, after all. I did enjoy Malignant, and boy did a lot of women die in that movie (and graphically!). But, I don’t think I need to explain the difference in media-literacy, engagement, and socio-economic understanding to separate myself from this ilk.
Candyman has always been a socio-economic figure and franchise. It has always been about the difference between cultures, and the frustrations that bud from unique experiences among people groups. The Candyman himself is literally a manifestation of cultural anxiety, gaslighting, and fear. Candyman (1992) clearly sets the groundwork for its socio-economic themes within the first 20 minutes as Helen observes how her apartment is gentrified, and how Cabrini Green is more than just a location, but a culturally segregated location (not just in terms of geography but also in terms of social respect). Throughout the first 40 minutes, it’s seriously in question if the Candyman actually is killing people, or if the Candyman is just what people call bad luck.
To further intersect the complexity of the Candyman figure, we watch how Candyman interacts with Helen during the latter half of the film. Do you really think the Candyman that basically converts Helen through the flaming trial of a pariah would have severed the genitals of a special needs child in a public bathroom? Honestly, whether you feel Candyman did or didn’t doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because it wouldn’t change the result: nobody was going to help them. No, because Candyman is just Cabrini Green’s “boogeyman”. There’s nothing wrong going on there, and nothing wrong will ever go on there, so the police never visit, and government officials wouldn’t intervene. And, if something happens, it was gang violence, or parental negligence, or “they had it comin'”. The “Candyman” is simply the reality of inevitable disaster. And, if something is inevitable, why bother resisting?
Candyman, both the 1992 and 2021 film, put to the forefront the danger of the above mentality. To be so flippant about misery, pain, suffering, and to even think that such things are wholly and completely out of ones control is a cowardly mentality. The only way it can be truly embraced is if the same sorts of people decided one-day that they, too, didn’t need to drive without a seat-belt. Or, that they could drink coffee straight from the pot before it cools down. Or, perhaps, they’d be interested in re-using needles for flu-shots? Misery, pain, suffering, it’s all inevitable. Why not embrace it? Say it 5 times in the mirror. Treat it like a game, even.
Nonetheless, to be upset about Candyman (2021)’s political messaging, even if it is far more heavy-handed than the first, is a complete revelation of miseducation. But, just as Angelica Jade Bastién writes in her review, a lot of the concepts and political themes shared are already intrinsically understood by Black audiences. And although she criticizes the film for being overt, blunt, and extremely clear about it’s themes as though it were written for a non-Black audience, it’s non-Black audiences who seem to have completely missed the implicit themes of Candyman (1992) to the point that they’re frustrated 2021 is so political.
Moreover, it’s no surprise that Jordan Peele, who didn’t even direct this feature (Nia DaCosta did, with an upcoming Disney/Marvel feature in The Marvels coming soon), is being treated like most Blacks who succeed? You’re allowed one victory, Get Out in this instance (and Us to a lesser degree, despite how much I enjoyed that one), but if you push your luck you’ll be relegated back to the same place you were before. “I wish you’d just go back to comedy! Non-political comedy like Key and Peele!” you’ll keep hearing, and reading, and seeing on Twitter, and all over review sites as he continues to direct, write, or produce things that matter to him and others within his community.
As for me: look, I had a really great time with Candyman (2021), and the more I think about the movie the better it gets. A part of me suspects this movie was about 10-20 minutes longer, probably running 100-ish minutes if it had released in 2020 like originally intended. The trailer definitely implies it with some haunting scenes of bees overtaking a church, or someone dressed as Helen sitting in a pew (maybe a nightmare sequence?), but it’s still pretty solid and a more than satisfactory follow-up to the original. For me, it clearly continues and develops upon the groundwork of the original film. Where-as the first film had the leering misery of Cabrini Green’s future, a dying community that will soon be gentrified, the opening title sequence of 2021 verifies the unfortunate truth: it happened. Cabrini Green is forgotten, or transformed with little recognition, and anyone moving in will have no idea of what happened there. Just like the above reviews, everyone forgets what took place, everyone moves on, and those who remember either don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to be reminded, or may even choose to exploit it.
Where-in comes the craziest themes of Candyman (2021), which is the Black self-exploitation of the Candyman. Anthony’s character literally pursues profiting off the misery of others, specifically those within his own community. That’s a heavy, harsh weight to carry, and an even harder topic to parse through. I don’t even think those who are criticizing this movie for being woke understand how intense that theme is, how difficult that line of thinking is to engage, how shameful it can be to self-examining your own self-exploitation.
And who better to work through this than a cast and crew of Black individuals who are essentially making a movie about profiting on the land of those who were exploited before? Anthony is living in the same place that was wiped off the map, reskinned to a more appealing and more excitable environment. Sure, movies can be used to signal truths about the world to the world, and having a platform is a blessing when you want to make the world a better place, but I imagine Jordan Peele, Nia DaCosta, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II are regularly meditating on what it’s like to love a medium that has treated them poorly in a country that has systematically exploited or suppressed them. From the helicopter establishing shots of high-ways and roads intersecting poor neighborhoods of 1992, to the foggy skyline of skyscrapers constructed in the same neighborhood of 2021, themes of contemplating history, cultural sin, and success are pervasive throughout Candyman (2021). It takes a dense skull to miss these correlations between the two films, their marriage a simple evolution of themes set within the foundation. And to find this development frustrating or bothersome, or too political, that’s just ridiculousness.
This movie is not without its faults, and I wish it had 10 more minutes to breathe. I wish the ending was about 40% stronger, specifically the transition from the second act to the third. But, I routinely think about this movie since seeing it weeks ago (and I saw this the same day as Malignant!). I keep thinking about how much this movie covers in 90 minutes, how much is completely missed by a critically incompetent audience, how cathartic and intoxicating working through these themes must have been for the cast and crew, and how those who understand what’s being said here are like Helen at the end of 1992.
Perhaps, in the last 30 years things have changed where no person outside of the Black community will ever be invited in so clearly as Helen was at the end of 1992. That’s fiction, after-all. But, it’s important to try, and I hope my pursuit of understanding others helps make me a safe person for others. If I can’t be safe, then I can’t help. And if I can’t help, then I must be doing something wrong.
If anything, the saddest thing about the quoted reviews is that all of those people are likely unsafe for many, many people. That alone is very disheartening. Especially when you take into account, culturally, who typically finds “woke” and “political” content frustrating in their entertainment: the christian-right. Can the christian-right even dream of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) if they’re unsafe to an entire people group? No, but perhaps Christians who love Christ, those whom are known by the way they listen, speak, and love others, maybe those Christians will be safe. Just maybe.
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Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!