CANDYMAN is phenomenal. It’s confronting. Bloody, creative.
It’s a wonderful mix of horror, melodrama, and comedy. I’m used to horror being either a fun, schlocky kill fest. Or a cerebral tale, filled with symbolism, and ultimately a social commentary.
CANDYMAN is both.
Now, CANDYMAN had some big shoes to fill. The original ‘Candyman’, released in 1992, is one of my favourite horror films. I watched it the night before seeing the new CANDYMAN. You absolutely do not need to have seen the original to enjoy the new one. But it certainly adds to the experience.
So I’m holding my breath as it starts. Suddenly, Sammy Davis Jr sings ‘The Candyman Can’. It’s upbeat, and just the right amount of on the nose. We all laugh. I remember how great Jordan Peele is at finding the fun moments to break tension, as well as build it.
Yahya Adbul-Mateen II plays Anthony, a young artist in Chicago. After initial success, he’s struggling to paint a new concept. The gallery owner challenges him to use his pain, and calls him ‘The Great Black Hope of the Chicago Art Scene’. It’s bloody uncomfortable.
Anyway, he visits Cabrini-Green, the setting for the original ‘Candyman’. It was once state housing, run down by poverty, racism, and neglect. The first Candyman, played by the honey-voiced Tony Todd, was an urban legend there. He’s a supernatural killer, with a hook for a hand. A curse anyone can summon by looking in the mirror and saying his name five times.
Thirty years ago, a white woman named Helen did exactly that. That’s the story of the 1992 Candyman film. The story is told through shadow puppets rather than film clips. They’re very beautiful and deeply terrifying. I love them. They are also in the final credits, making me watch this film to the very end.
Although even Helen’s story has become warped by telling and retelling. Urban legends at work. Thank goodness we have the original film to set the record straight.
Of course, Anthony decides his next exhibition piece will be a mirror. And he encourages people to ‘interact’ with it. By saying ‘Candyman’ five times.
The artwork is called ‘Say His Name’. Lots of white people do. They die in very creative ways. Ripped apart by Candyman’s hook hand. Stung to death by the bees that swarm wherever he appears. The Black characters are far more sensible. It’s quite a joy to see people in a horror movie make good choices.
Anthony is falling apart, not sure where he ends and the Candyman begins. A bee stings his hand, and an infection spreads. He hallucinates. The murders make him an artistic sensation.
There’s some brilliantly creative camera work. The opening scenes show the city of Chicago upside down. It’s haunting and disorienting. The murders are shot really well. Nia DaCosta is a new-ish director as well as one of the film’s co-writers. I’m really excited to see her future work in horror.
CANDYMAN is a great horror film. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of its original, but what could? It explores some complicated issues in a creative way, but it never loses sight of what matters. The tortured ghost of a Black man in a long cloak, a hook for a hand, and bees swarming as he says, ‘Sweets to the sweet.’