Directed by Nia DaCosta.
Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Rebecca Spence, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Brian King and Miriam Moss.
A “spiritual sequel” to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighbourhood where the legend began.
As the camera glides through the mist shrouded monoliths of a gentrified Chicago during the opening credits of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman sequel, you’re left with the unsettling feeling that beneath this beauty lays something terrifying, something half-remembered from childhood dares and VHS rentals, something now summoned into present day nightmares in the form of this outstanding exercise in horror filmmaking.
Like the innocuous sting that slowly spreads up the arm of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s struggling artist, Candyman leaves its mark very early on, with DaCosta deciding to show her hand from the off when it comes to the hook-handed menace who haunts the cracks in the walls, before unspooling its secrets in insidious fashion.
This works as a standalone chapter in the Candyman legacy, with writers Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and DaCosta ensuring that their screenplay provides enough of an education into the history of the Cabrini Green projects, all wonderfully created using some stunning shadow puppetry sequences, for you not to have seen Bernard Rose’s 1992 original. However, as it evolves it becomes so intrinsically linked to the events of that first film that some knowledge of the legend will only accentuate your enjoyment even further.
Enjoyment might not be the right word though, because even though there are plenty of laughs to be had, with Nathan Stewart-Jarrett a particular standout in a film which is self-aware enough to actually feature characters who avoid the usual genre behaviour tropes, this is still quite a seat-squirming experience.
It’s a masterclass in almost every element of horror, without ever feeling like a tired magician performing the same old tricks; small affectations, such as the way Candyman‘s face remains shrouded, or the strange way in which he looms as he steps through the wall, will have you peering through your fingers as much as when Abdul-Mateen II starts giving Brundlefly a run for his money in the body-horror stakes, or when the high-school game of “Candyman” ends in an inevitably bloody fashion.
As with most of the very best horror narratives, and much like producer Jordan Peele’s stellar one-two of Get Out and Us, there is so much more to Candyman than a campfire scare story, with a thesis worth of subtext and context stirring the grey matter at the same time as the horror bumps your geese. The themes here are depressingly cyclical, which is a key component of the franchise and its legacy, but this particular story, especially the surprisingly rousing and altogether unexpected ending, resonates into the real world in a way which guarantees that this scars your consciousness.
Ensuring that you care about who gets close to the sharp end of the hook are an ensemble made up of top-tier performances; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s early charisma and cocksure likeability is key in ensuring that when his personality begins to diminish as the horror takes hold, you really feel his suffering, while WandaVision’s Teyonah Parris continues to be a quality indicator for anything she appears in.
Guiding the victims down seemingly endless corridors, alongside multiple reflective surfaces, and through streets juxtaposing wealth and poverty, DaCosta’s lens captures a sense of place that is so important to this tale, and it does so in a way that some frames of shot composition are so impressive that it seems as though they should hang in the galleries featured in the movie. Candyman really is a sight to behold.
Through Nia DaCosta’s stunning viewfinder, Candyman drags the Cabrini Green mythology to the present day, where it pertinently and uneasily sits, using it to pick at the scabs of society, as-well-as inflicting some pretty gruesome moments of body-horror on the terrific cast. Candyman; See it, don’t say it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter