“A “spiritual sequel” to the horror film Candyman (1994) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.
I dare you to say his name five times. After a long delay, Nia Decosta’s Candyman is finally here. The film is a spiritual sequel to the original film taking place in what was once the Cabrini Green Homes. Decosta has created a modern classic that honors the original and takes the story in new directions while reminding us why we are all afraid to say his name five times. The film follows Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) a talented up-and-coming artist and his girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) an art gallery director. Anthony is struggling to find inspiration for a new piece until he meets an elder Cabrini resident named Burke (Colman Domingo) who imparts the Candyman legend to him which strikes a chord with Anthony. Unknowingly he unleashes the horror of Candyman.
Right off the back, this is Nia Decosta’s film to straighten up the confusion with mainstream audiences. Jordan Peele produced this film and is credited as one of the screenwriters, he did not direct this film. Decosta shows us exactly what a legacy sequel should do, something David Gordon Green’s Halloween did not achieve in my opinion. This film hits some of the same beats and does clearly take place in the same world, but never once did I get the feeling the Decosta was simply copying what Bernard Rose did in the first film. Probably the most effective aspect of her direction is how for most of the film she keeps Candyman out of focus and in the shadows. It gives him a sense of mystery and otherworldly presence throughout the film. And where the first film doesn’t quite go far enough with the discussion on the history of racial injustice in the United States. This allows the story to go deeper into what Candyman is and what he represents on a larger scale. Decosta truly delivers some brilliant direction on this film I can’t stress that enough.
As far as performances go there is not a bad one in the film, but the real standout is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He captures the spirit of a tortured artist. Anthony is an artist that wants people to see his art for what it is, a statement on racial discrimination and gentrification, which is what draws him to the Candyman story. You can feel his pain as he is haunted by Candyman and his search for the truth in his own past. He also shows the audience something that any artist can relate to, the need for people to see your work and to praise it. It’s a subtle thing but it is so realistic. Teyonah Parris is equally as stunning in her performance as Brianna. Where Anthony can be erratic and manic throughout the film, Brianna keeps her cool and stays level-headed.
She supports Anthony and defends him when others look down on him and criticize his work. You believe they truly love each other. My favorite quality in Parris’s performance is that subtle feeling that she is dealing with pain from past trauma. She hides it from others so you get the sense that she is masking herself so others won’t see it. She gets one of the best scenes in the film that I am still thinking about after seeing the film. Two truly stellar leading performances and I can’t wait to see what comes next for these actors. Without spoiling anything, Candyman is a true force to be reckoned with. While he is terrifying you also feel a sense of sympathy for him like in the first film. Candyman was a victim of white supremacy and you can feel his rage and his need for revenge paid in blood.
Nia Decosta’s Candyman is a stunning socially relevant horror film. It’s scary, engaging, and has important messages that need to be heard. It honors what came before, but in many ways improves upon the flaws of the first film without messing with its legacy. If you can see this film in theaters it is truly worth it. When you get home from viewing it you might think twice about looking in the mirror.