Director: Nia DaCosta
Screenplay by: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo and Tony Todd
2021 is turning into the year of horror. From Spiral (the best Saw film since the original) that re-opened cinemas back in May, through The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Unholy, The Forever Purge (the best of the entire series), Freaky, Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy and right up to last week’s releases The Night House and Censor. It’s been an exceptional year so far for horror and we haven’t even reached October yet with the release of Halloween Kills. Candyman, this week’s offering, doesn’t disappoint and is one of the better horror films from this year’s stellar selection.
It’s becoming an annoying trend that films that that are both a reboot and a sequel take the name from the original one rather than a new subtitle. 2018’s Halloween and next year’s Scream are also guilty of this. Candyman does exactly this and you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a remake not a sequel. It is a sequel and there are enough nods to the first one that makes it even better if you’ve seen the original beforehand, from cameo appearances to fleshing out the story.
Picking up around thirty years after the events of the original film, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7), the baby from the first film, is an artist struggling to match his earlier work. After hearing the story of Helen Lyne, the grad student researching urban legends from the first film who has since become an urban legend herself, he travels to Cabrini-Green and investigates the story, not knowing that he is part of it himself.
The original Candyman is a great film, that works incredibly well as its own thing. The sequel lives up to this and is a worthy follow-up to the horror classic. Tonally it feels very similar, mixing race relations, urban legends, and horror together. The effects obviously look much better, and the gore is more visceral, but it’s not shoved in our faces. Just like the first film it’s quick, and a lot of it happens off-screen.
The use of mirrors is excellent. From the reversed opening company logos before the film has even started, reflections and mirrors are a massive part of this film. Without spoiling it, there’s a moment where someone is walking around a car and their reflection differs on each side of the car. It creates the idea of a world just out of sync with ours and it works so well. Nia DaCosta is an excellent director, and it really shows here. This film is one of the most stylish horror films of recent years. Such as, instead of standard flashbacks, they are told using shadow-puppets. It looks great.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is great as Anthony, he’s charming and believable and when needed he can be unsettling. He gives a great performance, as does everyone else in the cast. Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Misfits) is great and offers some much-needed comedy amongst the tense horror, with witty one-liners and some reaction shots that whole screen laughing.
Candyman is a fantastic horror film and completely lives up to the legacy of the original. It delves deeper into the race relations that the first one dealt with, this time in a much more direct manner. It’s tense, horrific and has one specific body horror moment that Cronenberg would approve of. It’s wonderfully directed and co-written by Joran Peele who is one of the best writers of modern horror. It flies by and when the final sequence starts, you’ll find it hard to believe that it’s been 90ish minutes. The only downside of this film is that there isn’t more. The themes it presents could use some more time to unfold further, but that’s only a minor issue, if it is one at all. For the most part Candyman is a fantastic film.