For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.
For today’s bees-ness (get it) we have Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, a direct sequel to the cult 1992 film of the same name. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as Anthony McCoy, an artist who takes inspiration from the legend of the Candyman without realizing that the two of them are, in fact, connected. How prepared should you be for the carnage that awaits? Read on, and find out.
The big gimmick in Candyman is that, if you say his name five times into a mirror, a la Bloody Mary, he will appear, and then he will kill you. Needless to say, several characters try this out, so a lot of the film’s suspense comes from wondering exactly when and how the Candyman will claim his victims. But there are only a few jump scares, and even then, they’re not that shocking—DaCosta’s focus seems to be on unsettling her audience rather than truly frightening them.
This version of Candyman also takes a slightly different approach to gore—a few of his kills are shown on screen, but a lot of the violence happens just off screen, whether we’re watching a character react to hints of chaos around them or hearing that something has happened. That said, a major part of the movie involves body horror that the squeamish may want to cover their eyes for—rotting skin, fingernails falling off, that kind of gross stuff.
Speaking as a huge baby who refuses to ever try saying “Bloody Mary” into a mirror even once, Candyman is pretty spooky. The shadow puppetry that illustrates some of the film’s key sequences is also quite hauntingly executed. But the movie probably won’t have you leaving the theater trembling in fear—it’s a little muddled, and more action-filled than horrifying. This is also your heads-up that watching the 1992 Candyman will probably make the end of this movie make a lot more sense, if not necessarily scarier to experience.
All in all, Candyman plays a little more like a thriller than a horror movie. There are some scary moments, but it’s not as scary as its pedigree (Jordan Peele co-wrote the script) or the hype around it might suggest. It’s not so terrifying that relative horror newbies wouldn’t be able to handle it. There’s no better illustration of this than the film’s finale, which is less horrifying and more meant to elicit excitement, particularly from fans of the 1992 original.