Writer, Director Nia DaCosta redefines horror with her new film CANDYMAN. Referred to as a “spiritual sequel” the new horror thriller expands the universe created in the original 1992 film while enriching the story with resonant horrors of racial oppression, revenge, and the cycle of violence perpetrated by fear. The end result is, on the surface, an enthralling and at times terrifying horror movie burgeoning with so much substance that it stays with you hours, perhaps days after.
Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a promising artist awaiting his next big concept. He and his girlfriend Briana (Teyonah Parris) live in the posh new condominium towers overlooking the remnants of Cabrini Green, a former Chicago housing project with a sordid history of racial tensions. Briana invites her brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and his husband Kyle (Kyle Kaminsky) over for dinner one night and the conversation becomes, shall we say, scary. In a bit of a forced moment, Troy offers to tell a scary story and recounts the tale of Candyman, an African-American man who sneaked around Cabrini Green offering candy to kids. One day, a razor blade shows up in a white kid’s piece of candy and the well-meaning stranger is blamed, chased by the police, and killed on the spot.
The next day, in a moment of creative desperation, Anthony pitches the idea of Candyman to his pushy white agent Clive (Brian King), and his path is set. Initially, Anthony scales the fences of Cabrini Green to photograph and explore the remnants of a destroyed and marginalized community. He meets William (Colman Domingo) who lives nearby and runs a laundromat near the former projects. William spurs Anthony’s curiosity by sharing what he knows of the local legend and soon Anthony is obsessed. Becoming weird, withdrawn, and suffering an increasingly infecting wound from a bee sting, Anthony barrels down a path of artistic madness and self-destruction.
Let’s just say it, CANDYMAN is better than the original. It is darker, sleeker, far more sophisticated. It’s willing to address the horrors of racism rather than handing them a side-glance with a well-meaning white protagonist. I’m not coming for Virginia Madsen’s Helen and neither is this movie for that matter. The script, written by DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, and Jordan Peele, explores the lore from the oppressed’s point of view giving it far more weight and meaning.
As far as the tech specs go this movie looks like a million bucks but doesn’t flaunt them at the expense of story. In particular, the kill scenes are so fiendishly clever, with creative use of mirrors, staging, and just enough blood to make the viewer cringe. The score by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe doesn’t attempt to best Phillip Glass’ iconic presence, yet it finds its own place and identity. Then there is our leading man Abdul-Mateen who carries the film with charisma and solid performance.
In short, DaCosta, Peele, and company deliver so hard on this one. Minor qualms aside for various, almost superfluous things, Candyman delivers the goods and then some.
8 Out of 10
||1 Hr. 31 Mins.
||Nia DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele