If you read the giveaway post, you know I was excitedly waiting for the new CANDYMAN, which opened in theaters today. A direct follow-up to the 1992 film, described as its “spiritual sequel,” “Candyman” is a modern and polished take on the original – that expands the mythos while creating a tale that highlights time pervasive issues impacting African-American, especially low-income, communities.
The new film tells the story of Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen, Us) a frustrated visual artist who moves into a luxury, and gentrified, renovated Cabrini with his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris; If Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph).
When Anthony encounters the story of Candyman, elaborated on by longtime Cabrini resident William Burke (Colman Domingo, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Zola), and uses it as inspiration for his art, he descends into a maddening spiral and learns tragic truths that ultimately reveal his close connection to the infamous figure.
Co-writer and director Nia DaCosta’s use of reverse images/angles, mirrors, shadows – as well as the use of shadow puppets or silhouette animation – create both allure and horror as she invites the audience into Anthony’s descent, the killer’s vantage points, and illuminates the origins and motivations of Candyman.
But, while making the film more stylized, DaCosta also lessened the scare factor that the original film contained. I was less creeped out and mostly rooting for revenge, maybe retribution is a better term, for the societal ills that were highlighted – more specifically police brutality, bullying, and the commodification of Black trauma and pain.
Anthony’s emotional and physical decline also seemed rushed – in addition to Brianna’s traumatic backstory, which wasn’t as neatly woven into the tale with her pain being capitalized on much less explored.
Yet, the performances are magnificent – I mean, what can’t Colman Domingo do – and a cameo by the amazing Vanessa Williams as Anthony’s mother Anne-Marie is a definite highlight.
I also thought Brianna’s brother Troy (a stand out Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), was the personification of everything a Black person in a real-life scary scenario should be – playing not one game, on the ready to protect his family, and also “be out” when appropriate.
Is the new “Candyman” frightening? I would say no, but it doesn’t shy away from gore in several scenes and horror lightweights still may be creeped out. Unfortunately, I expected to be scared silly by this one and wasn’t at the slightest.
I did think, however, that the end of the story justified most of the means – and that it leaves room for any sequels to follow. And though I appreciated the twist, with better character development it would have been more shocking and revelatory.
All in all, I think the new “Candyman” is a sound visual addition to the horror genre, and a solid expansion on the story that isn’t heavy on the scares but rather filled with examples of Black pain that are true-to-life horrifying – and maybe that ultimately was DaCosta’s intent.
I rate it 3 out of 5 beats on the MMTromter.
Until next thought, Thomasena