Joel Hilke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Having not watched any trailers, it turns out re-watching the original 1992 Candyman in advance of this new film was a wise decision. The new Candyman is a direct sequel to the original film... another one of those sequels that take the original's name and ignores the various sequels of the past. This film makes continuous reference to characters and events from 1992 film.
Candyman 2021 takes place in the same area as the original but, as in real life, the Cabrini Green projects have long since been torn down and gentrified. The new lead actor - a Black artist - stumbles upon a version of the Candyman legend and uses it to inspire new art that he displays at an art show. An exhibit that encourages people to "say his name". Candyman-like carnage ensues.
Carnage and social commentary. This version of the story goes hard on the type of crime that was merely back-story or suggested in the original. It explains in detail so there's no mistaking its message. No subtlety here - it's openly asks questions about the creation of the Projects/ghettos, gentrification, cycles of violence, and so on.
As far as the more traditional horror in this horror movie goes, it's sometimes very good. The movie creates an aura of rising tension as the legend of Candyman grows once again in the popular awareness. There are some very good, bloody sequences that are well shot and should please fans of slasher flicks.
But in there lies some flaws, at least in my book. Sometimes the film feels at odds with itself. Sometimes it seems like a smart psychological thriller and then it has horrific bloody murder mashed in by a supernatural force. Sometimes those murders feel a little added into the soup... as though maybe the studio realized there wasn't enough slasher in their slasher remake so they added some slashing to satisfy the slasher fans.
This is no better exemplified in how it handles a reveal about Candyman. There's something neat about the new approach to the urban legend... suggesting this isn't a continuation of a violence from the 1800s but part of an ongoing stew of violence. Which leads to one character acting to ensure that the Candyman legend continues. Yet we've already seen a blunt supernatural force actively killing people so there's no doubt Candyman - or something like him - is already out there. So whatever the movie is trying to do on one hand is made unnecessary by another.
I really enjoyed this remake and think it brings the Candyman fully into its social allegory. I suspect not everyone will appreciate or like that shift and others might find it too blunt. But it worked for me as a bit of angry fist pumping... and as an interesting and expanded analysis of urban legends. I wish it had been more cohesive at times but I think it ultimately works well.