Candyman 1992 vs. 2021

The long anticipated reboot/sequel of Candyman has finally been released, after a mountain of delays.  The Jordan Peele produced and Nia DaCosta directed film has been making waves on the internet, and holds the distinction of the first time in history that a film directed by a black woman opened at #1 at the box office.

So with all the buzz around the new movie (no pun intended), we wanted to take a look back at the original and definitively/objectively compare the two.  Both films are brilliant in their own right, and this is frankly all just subjective opinion, but we thought it would be a fun exercise!

Note: Major Spoilers for both the 1992 and 2021 movies ahead!

Round I – Characters
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Virginia Madsen’s Helen gave the 1992 original and unforgettable protagonist who’s driven to the point that it leads her down a path of chaos and death.

There’s an ultimate tragedy to her demise, as we watch her go past the point of no return, and finally get the answers she seeks on Candyman, albeit far too late.  She’s a character that feels very genuinely naïve in the beginning, but painfully warped by the end.

As far as the other characters go, her husband Trevor is kind of a cliché jerk from the very start.  And her best friend and thesis partner Bernadette works as a more cautious foil to Helen.

Then in 2021, we’re introduced to artist Anthony, his art dealer girlfriend Brianna, Brianna’s brother Troy, and laundromat owner William Burke.  Much like Helen, Anthony fills the role of tragic hero, who always seemed destined for his fate.

Candyman utters the words, “It was always you Helen,” suggesting that she is the reincarnation of the woman he loved.  However Anthony is equally deserving of these words, as his captivity as an infant in the original movie seemingly doomed him to his fate in the new one.

Anthony is fascinating character to watch as his ambition as an artist sends him down the same rabbit hole Helen went on.  We really get a sense of the paranoia and terror he experiences as he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake.

As far as main characters go, it’s honestly a solid tie between Anthony and Helen.  So what decides this round will be the side characters, and there’s a clear winner there.  Brianna is a far better developed character than Trevor was, she’s so much more than just the spouse of the protagonist.  She even has an active role in the plot and her own character arc.

Troy is a nice addition as well.  The original didn’t really have a character that was meant to be comic relief, and while that’s his initial role in the movie, he’s much more developed than that and doesn’t fall into any stereotypes, which could have very easily happened.

Round I Winner – 2021

Round II – Story
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The new Candyman certainly felt update and relevant for the modern age, particularly with its themes (which we’ll get to a in a few rounds).  However in terms of its story, it is bit lacking, particularly in the third act.

The idea of there being multiple “Candymen” isn’t a bad idea, and it’s nothing new.  We saw Helen become a “Candywoman” at the end of the original movie.  But where the 2021 version veers into left field is the idea that William Burke has been plotting to turn Anthony into Candyman to use him as something of a vigilante.

Candyman is meant to be this mystical, otherworldly villain, and to reduce him to a henchman kind of undermines what makes him special.  Plus, we discover that there was another “Candyman” in the 1977, who gave out candy to children but was brutally murdered in a tragic case of police brutality.

But what seems a little contrived is the fact that is definitely a sequel, and thus follows the original.  So that means that in 1977, there was already the legend of the hook-handed Candyman, who wore a long brown coat.

But then there was also this other guy who wore the same coat, had a hook for a hand, and also gave out candy to children?  It just seems like they wanted to reboot the origin story, but still wanted it to connect to the original. And sometimes having your cake and eating it too doesn’t always work.

Back in 1992 however, the original Candyman was far more focused on telling a cohesive and compelling story.  It plays out like a straightforward mystery with a focus on urban legends.  And what makes it so fascinating is that it’s not quite clear until near the end whether Candyman is real or if Helen truly is going insane.

It has a simpler story objective than its 2021 counterpart, and it achieves that objective very efficiently.

Round II Winnner – 1992

Round III – Style/Tone
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This is probably going to be the hardest round to judge.  Because honestly, both versions are incredibly well directed.  The 1992 film is a superb supernatural mystery/thriller that draws you in and keeps you guessing.  There’s an almost hypnotic quality to it, which is fitting considering that Virginia Madsen actually underwent hypnosis for certain scenes.

And of course, it features the amazingly haunting and tragic score by Philip Glass.  With just a few piano notes, we feel the terror, the power, but also the sorrow and loss of Candyman, all at once.  It’s a truly brilliant piece of music, and it’s a bit frustrating that it doesn’t pop up in the new movie until the closing credits.

That said, the 2021 is much more intense and brutal than the 1992 original ever was.  Nia DaCosta really knocked it out of the park with creating a sense of atmosphere and dread.  The kills in this version are particularly brutal, which just adds to the terror.

As previously mentioned, both versions are extremely well made.  The original still holds up, nearly 30 years later.  And the new version effectively delivers a dose of terror, while making its audience think.  It’s a very tough call, but the edge has to go to 1992 for being so memorable so many years later.

Round III Winner – 1992

Round IV – Technical Specs
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Again, both versions seem evenly matched in this area.  The original makes use of a gorgeously haunting aerial shot of the streets of Chicago.  Plus, since it was made the early 90’s, there’s virtually no visual effects or CGI, everything was done practically on camera.

The scene with the bees remains one of the creepiest and best done practical effects in movie history, considering there were hundreds of actual bees.  Because of all the effects being practical, none of them have aged badly, and they look just as real now as they did in 1992.

To its credit, the 2021 movie doesn’t rely too heavily on CGI.  And it boasts some great practical body horror makeup effects, especially with Anthony’s transformation into Candyman.  But the amazing Philip Glass score, along with that iconic bee scene, the 1992 movie gets the edge in this category.

Round IV Winner – 1992

Round V – Themes
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Even from its inception as a Clive Barker story, Candyman always dealt with social issues.  While the original story “The Forbidden” dealt primarily with class in British society, both films deal with the unfortunate history of racism in America.

Both movies features a “villain” who was the victim of some sort of racism-inspired brutality.  Whether it’s Tony Todd’s version who was lynched because he impregnated a white woman, or the new film’s Sherman who was the victim of false accusations and police brutality, which led to murder.

Back in 1992, Candyman was certainly considered “progressive” for its take on these issues, however it’s since been criticized for relying a bit on stereotypes, as well as telling the story from the perspective of a white character, who almost sees the people living in Cabrini Green as subjects.

The 2021 version certainly takes an updated look, featuring main characters and more people behind the camera who are people of color.  However it still seems to come from a position of privilege as Anthony and Brianna live in a gentrified high rise and seem to be financially well off, which is not the world that Candyman usually inhabits.

What it really comes down to is the 1992 film is merely trying to tell a story and sort of accidentally deals with greater themes, while the 2021 movie intentionally infuses them into the narrative.  It knows what it wants to say, and does so effectively, albeit at the expense of story logic (which we covered already).

But because of its intentions and executions, the newer version gets the edge here.

Round V Winner – 2021

Overall Winner – 1992 with 3/5

Honestly, both movies are brilliant, and were pretty evenly matched on all of these categories.  Which one do you like better and why?  Let us know in the comments!

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