As old horror classics are making a comeback like 2018’s Halloween, Hollywood is attempting to do it again with a follow-up to Candyman. Just like the Michael Myers flick, Candyman ignores the films that came after the original and brings in a new tale that directly connects with the first film. Directed by Nia DaCosta and written by her alongside Jordan Peele, the newest film hopes to hook in a new generation who aren’t familiar with this 1992 classic while also connecting to the fanbase of know the story of the urban legend of the notorious supernatural killer.
The story takes place in the present, as the story of the bee-infested killer has been buried and forgotten with the town of Cabrini-Green getting gentrified to a bunch of luxury buildings. The new film follows Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an artist living with his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris), a rising museum curator. After hitting an artistic block, Anthony is suddenly introduced to the lore of the Candyman and finds new inspiration for his next masterpiece. However, the stories of the legendary killer quickly take over his life as he questions his past. This causes the Candyman to be resurrected and his killing spree reinvigorates the urban legend to rise again.
Just like Jordan Peele’s previous work, Candyman focuses its attention on the Black community in America, tackling issues like gentrification and police brutality by combining it with the franchise’s elements of horror. It is a very good way to explore these topics that breathe new life into the legend of Candyman as portrayed by Tony Todd in the previous films. This is director Nia DaCosta’s first feature dealing with an existing IP as most of her work has been with smaller features like Little Woods. The film uses some shadowy puppetry to retell the story of the Candyman to great effect. DaCosta and Peele’s modern take on this story reflects on the issues that America is facing now but also offers new ways to create some scary tension.
DaCosta keeps the tone consistent by delivering some ingenious kills when the camera angles between one side of the mirror to the other once the bogeyman strikes his victims. Some gut-wrenching scenes can come off as eerily creepy when we focus on Anthony as he starts to unravel. The film also goes deep into the mythology by connecting the events that transpired in the first film into the newest installment. What is clever about the writing is conjuring Candyman into a shadowy figure that has many faces and different backstories as the namesake are passed down from one generation to the next. So basically injustice that befalls a Black man can effectively become the Candyman who can kill his victims just by saying his name five times in a mirror.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has a big task of heading the film by becoming the eyes and ears of the audience. We get to see his sudden fascination with the legend eat him alive and see his transformation. Certain moments can feel rushed at times, making the audience seem lost in his character as we attempt to know who he is. Yahya commands the screen with his presence, which helps when it comes to his powerful scenes when the murders take place. Teyonah Parris also gets her due as she tries to make a name for herself in the art world, but she is also somehow tugged towards her unsettling past. However, it doesn’t seem like the film goes too much further on her backstory, which is what the film somehow lacked when it comes to these characters. Even Colman Domingo’s portrayal of a resident who knows a lot about the Candyman legend can seem like it’s half-baked at times.
Candyman brings back the story for a new audience by connecting to the lore while adding some details for a fresh update. The film does well in bridging the gap between horror and reality as well as bringing in the issues of race and the consequences it brings in modern-day America. DaCosta does well in framing how scary it is to be living in America as a person of color by blending it with some horror elements. The film gets to give tribute to the original film while bringing in social commentary of what it means to be Black in America as it digs deep into the issues at hand to deliver a timely piece of art.
Candyman releases in theaters Friday, August 27.
Movie Reviewed by TANTV Entertainment Journalist, Mufsin Mahbub. Follow him on Twitter @MufsinM.