Writer/Director Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele team up to reintroduce movie audiences to Clive Barker's tortured soul Candyman. The film expands the mythos of the original film beyond the singular spirit to encapsulate a broad range of societal themes. At a scant 91-minutes, they maybe aim for too many targets while also crafting a brooding and horrifying expansion of the franchise headlined by a commanding performance from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. This new Candyman haunts 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an excellent HDR10 transfer and an intense demo-worthy Atmos audio track. If you're a fan this is an essential disc. Highly Recommended.
Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) lives in a luxurious apartment with his long-term girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Paris). The building stands on the ground that was once part of the notorious tenement community Cabrini-Green. The buildings, the people that lived there, and its demons have been forgotten under the veneer of gentrification. As Brianna's career grows at The Art Institute of Chicago, Anthony struggles to breakout in the competitive art world. When he learns of Cabrini-Green's past and the tales of the Candyman, Anthony's work takes on a new dimension and the legend is reborn.
Because so many of us were fans of this film with similar appreciation but different thematic takeaways - it was hard to decide who got to cover this 4K releases of Candyman. We're breaking with tradition to offer a trio-review of the film while E. will tackle the primary technical materials:
Here's Bryan Kluger's thoughts from his Theatrical Review:
"DaCosta and Peele truly understand the meaning and underlying tones of Candyman, which is one of the many reasons this new film works so well. Since the first movie, it's been shown that certain groups of people are treated with extreme prejudice and unfairly, which ties in with how Candyman ultimately became the killing presence he is known to be. It's a tragic story, one that is told in this new story through excellent use of shadow paper-cutouts and brings a bigger understanding to the whole supernatural angle. These topical elements of gentrification, police brutality, racism, and law enforcement corruption are ever-present in real life as they are in this movie as Anthony and Brianna navigate their personal and corporate lives.
"Adding Candyman to the mix only reveals what's burning underneath all the awkward and fake smiles in regards to those current social events and just may bring out the true and real reason Candyman exists. It's quite remarkable how Peele and DaCosta have executed this. The gore and carnage are not constant here like regular slasher films, but when the carnage is in full effect, it hits a ten rating. But this movie has so much more to say than just a movie monster going around icing people. Parris and Mateen are fantastic in their respective roles with Mateen shining in the spotlight. His witty, charming, happy character, in the beginning, is soothing and friendly, but his transformation by the end is something nightmares are made of."
Here's Matthew Hartman's take:
"DaCosta took what had sadly become a churned-out direct-to-cable franchise and breathed new culturally relevant life into it. I'll admit for a 90-minute film, it probably shoots at too many hot-button targets to adequately explore from systemic racism, gentrification, cultural appropriation. But on the other hand, it's difficult to explore one aspect without digging into others. My lone complaint really is we're not given a lot of time with this new modern world of Candyman. For how well DaCosta and her co-writers stayed true to the original lore but expanded the work - I wanted more.
"Small gripes aside, I loved what they managed to pull off so well with this new resurrection of the franchise. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is amazing as Anthony. Ever since The Get Down he's just become a more and more impressive presence to watch. He can be intense and threatening while also wounded and vulnerable in a single take. Teyonah Paris is also a highlight as her character tries to navigate her own life and be an individual of merit and worth beyond the ties to her relationship with Anthony. Together they added a welcome feel of normal domesticity before the madness begins and tears apart their lives.
"I also loved how impressively DeCosta and crew handled Cabrini-Green. I wasn't born there, but I've spent roughly a third of my life in Chicago. I moved there for school just when they began tearing down the Green. Some of my friends and I tried shooting some of our student projects in the remnants and were scared out of there pretty fast! The experience of passing by those buildings commuting to school and work was always haunting. Then when I moved back to the city a few years later to see everything had changed so dramatically was equally jarring. There might be a Ferrari dealership and a massive Target store, but the area still felt wrong. I felt this new Candyman film reflected that eeriness of how the area has a new look but there's still something haunting it."
And for the last word, here's M. Enois Duarte's Take:
"One scene in Nia DaCosta's Candyman perfectly encapsulates everything that makes this spiritual sequel to Bernard Rose's 1992 supernatural gothic flick both an ambitiously effective horror film and a somewhat average follow-up. The central theme is blatantly stated in a conversation between Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Billy Burke (Colman Domingo) just a little after the midpoint. Basically, the deeper issues whispering life into this story, which Costa co-wrote with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, can be summarized in the line delivered by Domingo: "They love what we make. But not us." As he continues with the legend of Daniel "Candyman" Robitaille, originally played by Tony Todd, and visually depicted by shadow puppets, he expounds on a changing world while things remain the same, overtly referring to racial injustices persisting and that the urban legend is a means for people to endure that unhealed pain.
"Essentially, at the heart of Anthony's downward spiral is a generational trauma, an emotional injury from long ago that continues to hurt. When ignore or unaddressed, it's a deeply painful wound, a known yet unspoken truth that festers in the unconscious of a person, passed down through generations, growing into a behavioral norm until manifesting itself into a larger systemic problem. And digging at this unhealed, unspoken wound are cultural expectations burdening Anthony and his girlfriend, art gallery director Brianna (Teyonah Parris), from the verbal attacks about Anthony's masculinity by Bri's brother (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) to Brianna needing to be the stronger person for the couple by being silent about a childhood tragedy. All the while, an irritatingly pompous art dealer (Brian King) pressures Anthony to exploit his Blackness and basically tokenize himself, which brings it all back full circle to Billy's comments.
"Anthony's art, much like DaCosta's film itself, toes that very thin line of sensationalizing, and even capitalizing on, the pain of a people for the sake of art and entertainment. But then again, this has always been a problem with satirizing poignantly serious sociopolitical issues, of the challenge to imaginatively express or shed light on pressing, important subject matters. And DaCosta's Candyman does this with aplomb and inspired skill."
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Candyman (2021) arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set from Universal. Pressed on a BD-66 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc case with identical slipcover artwork. The included digital copy is Movies Anywhere compatible and will port to all linked services.
The urban myth lives on in the gentrified streets of Ultra HD with an exceptional HEVC H.265 encode with several demo-worthy moments. Shot entirely on the Arri Alexa camera system capable of 3.4K resolution but mastered to a 4K digital intermediate, the upscaled transfer enjoys razor-sharp definition for a majority of the runtime, exposing the individual bricks, cracks and tiny imperfections in the exterior of buildings. The fine lines and objects decorating the various homes are also distinct and plainly visible, even during the poorly-lit interiors. However, the 2160p video comes with a few instances of mild, near-negligible aliasing or shows a tad of wavering along the sharpest edges. Thankfully, it is not so egregious as to ruin or distract from the film's overall enjoyment, but it is nonetheless worth noting, making it shy of reference or perfection.
Overlooking that, the 4K video remains an outstanding winner thanks to a spot-on contrast and brightness balance, showering the visuals with radiant, pitch-perfect whites and luxuriously rich black levels. Several scenes are lavished in silky, inky shadows that never engulf or ruin the finer details but display outstanding gradational differences between the lighter and darker portions of the frame, providing the 2.39:1 image with a lovely three-dimensional, cinematic appeal. Specular highlights are equally impressive where the brightest areas have a tight, realistic glow while revealing excellent detailing within various light sources and light seems to bounce off objects with natural brilliance. Exterior night shots of the city skyline are some of the best moments and are quite stunning where viewers can differentiate and make out the individual windows and offices of buildings from a distance.
John Guleserian's stylized cinematography displays a vibrant, full-bodied array of colors, which ironically plays against some of the film's darker elements. The HDR10 presentation comes spectacularly beautiful and richly-saturated primaries throughout, such as the animated candy-rose red of Anthony's cap or the gallery's lighting and the deep crimson shade of blood. Secondary hues benefit greatly as well, displaying a great deal of variation and richness between the various softer tones, particularly those scenes bathed in a honey and marigold yellow tint to better complement the story's deeper themes. Facial complexions appear healthy and accurately rendered with a natural rosiness around the cheekbones of the entire cast and lifelike textures that expose the most minute, negligible blemish. (HDR10 Video Rating: 94/100)
The legendary slasher traumatizes home theaters with a first-rate, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that almost immediately submerges viewers into this supernatural horror world.
The overall design is really subtle and understated, focused more on creating a tension-filled, creepy aural experience than obnoxiously loud jump scares. Since much of the story is driven by character development and dialogue, the foley attention is placed on the city commotion heard as part of daily living in Chicago. These include the echo of city traffic ringing all around, the numerous chatter of people in the streets and the occasional blare of sirens reverberating everywhere. Filling the room with a forbidding, ominous air right from the start, the various ambient effects are skillfully inventive and employed. They discretely and flawlessly pan between the surrounds and overheads, particularly when the nightmarish voice of Candyman speaks directly above the listening area, generating a satisfyingly eerie hemispheric soundfield. Meanwhile, other bits of subtle noise, like the wind blowing through the trees and birds chirping in the distance, do well in keeping the listener immersed from start to finish.
Keeping things awesomely engaging, many of those same atmospherics layer the visuals with plenty of background activity fluidly moving between the three front channels and to the top heights, providing a splendidly broad and spacious half-dome soundstage. Imaging maintains distinct clarity and superb detailing within the mid-range at all times, even during the rowdiest, ear-deafening moments. All the while, Robert A. A. Lowe's amazingly haunting score exhibits a great deal of warmth and fidelity with excellent separation and definition in every note and between each instrument while lightly bleeding to the sides and overheads. Even at whisper levels and during the loudest segments, the dialogue is extraordinarily clear and precise with superb intonation in every dramatic performance. Most surprising is a robust and responsive low-end providing the visuals and music with a palpable weight and presence, occasionally energizing the room with a subtle ultra-low activity that adds an uneasy, menacing feeling. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
While not the largest package of bonus features, there are some interesting things to look at. The Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes total roughly 8-minutes of new/alternate footage. The individual featurettes may skirt the typical EPK talking head pieces, but collectively they offer up some worthwhile information.
Nia DaCosta's bold new take on the classic franchise revitalizes the name Candyman. True to the original film, it expands on the myth and lore while crafting a new creature for modern times. While the film can feel like it's painting with a rather large brush, the terrific performance from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ensures the story is never lost in the many overarching themes and ideas. Universal Studios delivers a terrific 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release giving fans a gorgeous HDR10 transfer and a moody demo-worthy Atmos audio track along with some interesting worthwhile bonus features. Highly Recommended.