Ranked: Every ‘Candyman’ Movie from Worst to Best

Daniel Rester ranks the films of the horror series 'Candyman' from worst to best, including the 2021 film by Nia DaCosta.

While the horror genre was facing a slump in the early 1990s, Candyman (1992) provided one of the few bright spots. It is based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker. It also made Tony Todd a horror icon and helped pave the way for more serious African American characters in the genre. Two sequels followed in the same decade and then a reboot sequel came in 2021. Let’s break them down from worst to best. 

4. Candyman: Day of the Dead  (1999) 

Easily the lowest point in the series is the third film, Candyman: Day of the Dead, directed by Turi Meyer and released directly to television. It takes place in 2020 and has another descendant of the Candyman named Caroline (Donna D’Errico) trying to avoid becoming his victim. Todd looks bored in the film and the actor even dismissed the film himself years later. Day of the Dead looks cheap and has flat lighting, lots of cleavage and standard gore, and awful acting all around. It even lazily recreates a flashback scene from the second film and changes it from day to night! The film has a few effective kill scenes, and isn’t a total abomination in terms of quality, but it’s still pretty terrible. Grade: D

3. Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh  (1995)

The second film, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, presented the first disappointing drop in quality for the series. Directed by Bill Condon before he made musicals and biopics, the sequel recycles plot turns from the 1992 film while also giving the middle finger to that film’s ending. This time the Candyman is haunting New Orleans, where teacher Annie (Kelly Rowan) is investigating murders linked to her brother Ethan (William O’Leary, giving a poor performance). Farewell to the Flesh develops Candyman’s tragic backstory more, with Todd still excellent in the antagonistic role. The stylish cinematography and a supporting performance by Bill Nunn as a reverend also help. However, the sequel is bland for the most part and it comes across as a generic ‘90s slasher, having little of the power of the first film. Grade: C

2. Candyman  (2021) 

The 2021 Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and co-produced by Jordan Peele, is a direct sequel to the events of the original film. It moves the action back to Chicago and focuses on a now-adult Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the baby from the original film who is now a struggling painter. As he connects his art to Candyman, he discovers his dark past with the legend. DaCosta’s film has many individual scenes that are expertly staged and shot, and the acting is strong all around; Abdul-Mateen II gives a powerhouse performance. While the first act of Candyman 2021 flows well, the film unfortunately becomes more and more jumbled as it goes along and eventually leads to a rushed conclusion. The writing and editing fail to find a smooth balance with McCoy’s story, heavy-handed messages about police brutality and gentrification, and various flashbacks and characters’ subplots. There’s a lot to enjoy here but the film is still far weaker than the 1992 original. Grade: B-

1. Candyman  (1992) 

Candyman is a dark and beautiful horror film that explores the effects of urban legends, poverty, and interracial romances. It handsomely captures the dirtier sides of Chicago as semiotics student Helen (Virginia Madsen) discovers the story of a legend named Candyman, who kills people with bees and a nasy hook hand. Todd’s debut as the character is electrifying, with his brooding look and low voice able to raise hairs. The first half of Bernard Rose’s film takes its time as it unfolds mystery and drama before leading to dreamlike slasher elements in the second half. Philip Glass’ music score highlights the moods perfectly throughout as well. Candyman remains intelligent and scary, having stood the test of time. Grade: A-

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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