Candyman (2021) review
Candyman is one of the most unique horror movie experiences in a decade.
Initially, it plays out like a really good modern take on the classic horror movie format. By its final act, Candyman evolves into almost a superhero origin film via a horror lens.
Director/screenwriter Nia DaCosta teams with co-screenwriters Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld for this reimagining of the Tony Todd 1992 film.
Artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Maten II, Aquaman) is in a creative rut. His curator girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris, WandaVision), remains supportive though she’s encouraging him to start creating again.
Briana’s brother, Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), shares the urban legend of Candyman. Armed with a hook hand and flanked by bees, Candyman plagued a neighborhood that’s now in the midst of gentrification.
Anthony is further intrigued after learning more of the Candyman from a friendly resident, William Burke (Colman Domingo, Fear the Walking Dead).
Gradually, Anthony becomes obsessed with the story. He goes so far as to create a piece in a new exhibit based on the Candyman. His research takes him deeper. DaCosta, Peele and Rosenfeld include some call backs to the original film right down to dialogue from co-star Virginia Madsen.
Abdul-Maten gives Anthony a refreshing rawness. He embraces that introspective sensibility of a thoughtful artist that wants people to think about his pieces. He sells the breakdowns believably and the gradual fading of Anthony’s grip of sanity is a high point of the film.
That’s true of the entire ensemble. Paris is a superstar whose mainstream breakout seems imminent. She’s so good at the little things and shows so much versatility in every role. Candyman doesn’t make Briana a passive background player and as the film progresses, she’s just as vital a character as Anthony.
Domingo is the kind of performer that makes anything he’s involved in better. He’s a steadying presence who understands the value of delivering his dialogue with precision and patience to leave the audience hanging on every word. Stewart-Jarrett provides the comedy without coming off like a goofy irritant.
DaCosta stages some of the most creative shots and perspectives I’ve seen in a long time. She doesn’t cheat the horror elements, but there’s a masterful artistry that makes it so much more than the gore.
It’s felt like it’s been a while since a director made so many artistic stylish choices and everything works to this level. Whether wide shots, close-ups or how she shoots the murder scenes, DaCosta never disappoints. If Candyman is an indication of DaCosta’s future it’s more a matter of how many Oscars she’ll claim over the next decade not if she’ll ever win one.
The Marvels, the Marvel Studios film starring Parris, Brie Larsen and Iman Vellani, is slated for a 2022 release. With DaCosta directing it, The Marvels needs to be a film a lot of comic book fans need to be circling as a highly anticipated 2022 film.
Candyman has an unapologetically realistic black horror film meaning characters avoid suspect looking scenarios that would have viewers think they’re ridiculous for exploring. There’s a great moment when a character does a spin on the Geico Halloween commercial ad that was perfect.
A number of recent films from black filmmakers struggle in trying to incorporate some form of commentary on today’s social and racial climate. It comes off too clunky and forced often undercutting the message.
With Candyman, the screenwriters have a surprisingly easy link from historical racial injustice to contemporary times.
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In this context, the film’s taunt of say his name takes on a dual meaning in the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that is fascinating.
With one exception, there is a very deliberate choice not to show excessive violence or death to minority characters including the gay couple. This is where the use of the shadow puppets was so ingenious.
There’s no need for gruesome scenes showing black men getting beaten and lynched. It’s conveyed in a more artful and stylistic manner through the shadow puppets. As the story unfolds, a dual meaning for them is revealed as well.
For horror fans, this is the easiest recommendation all year — go see Candyman as soon as possible.
It’s a masterpiece with breathtaking direction, stunning performances and a riveting script. Even if horror isn’t your thing normally, it’s good enough to win you over and never forget the name.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Universal