Film Review: Candyman

DIRECTED BY

Nia DaCosta

STARRING

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Rebecca Spence, Michael Hargrove and Vanessa Williams

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SYNOPSIS

A spiritual sequel to 1992’s Candyman, returning to the now-gentrified Chicago neighbourhood where the legend began.

A decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright, move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile Millennials. With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini Green old-timer exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman.

Serving more so as a spiritual sequel to Bernard Rose’s 1992 original (compared to the other sequels Farewell to the Flesh and Day of the Dead), this iteration of Candyman is directed by Nia DaCosta, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighbourhood were terrorised by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, who is summoned by those that dare to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend Brianna Cartwright, move into a condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by Millennials. While roaming around Cabrini Green looking for inspiration for his art, he encounters with an old-timer who exposes him to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman, inspiring him to develop his next exhibit on the legend of Candyman, unleashing a wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

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The original Candyman is one of those films that has grown over time for me, from its mythology of the Candyman to the plight that Helen Lyle goes through. So when this film was in development with Peele attached to produce and have a hand in penning the script, I was curious to see how the Candyman would work in the present day setting almost thirty years after the original. Right from the opening scene, Nia DaCosta seems the mood and overall tone of the film with a flashback sequence, how the skyline of Chicago is captured upside down to make it otherworldly, especially with how the music by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe lingers over it. It’s a very-well crafted film, with some really interesting imagery by cinematographer John Guleserian, especially with how they play with settings that have mirrors in it, making us the viewer looking closely to see if we can catch a glimpse of Candyman somewhere in the reflection. I also really liked the idea of using shadow puppetry to provide reenactments of the urban legend tales we hear told during the course of the film.

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There’s some use of CGI in this film that, while the idea behind them are interesting, how they’re executed just quite didn’t work so well for me, such as one scene we see something occur during a wide, pan-out shot, and also in the grand finale which I won’t go into further detail on. The finale itself takes a creative swing, but while it’s admirable, it feels incredibly rushed especially with how slow-paced the storytelling is leading up to this moment and with the films ninety-one minute runtime, it definitely feels like some things may have been left on the cutting room floor (for example the subplot involving Brianna’s father, which we get a flashback to, but other than a few snippets of dialogue here and there, the audience has to draw to their own conclusion). With the original story having a social commentary on black trauma and gentrification, this version/sequel double-down’s on exploring these matters further that, for me, it sidelined the physical embodiment of Candyman itself as, while it stalks Anthony and kills others that say his name, it doesn’t have the same impact and horror when compared to the original. While the ensemble are very good actors, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo, there wasn’t a character that I found to be interesting to follow or root for.

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VERDICT

Candyman on a technical level is so well crafted, from Nia DaCosta’s direction, to John Guleserian’s cinematography. While I like the main cast, unfortunately I couldn’t gravitate towards their characters, and I even felt Candyman itself was underused. An ambitious attempt to reboot the franchise, but felt disappointed overall.

★★½