Director Nia DaCosta’s kind of mostly sequel to the 1992 original revives the Candyman. Say his name five times in the mirror if you dare, as Cabrini Green has dark secrets which are dangerous to uncover.
This is an incredibly slick production, which shouldn’t be a surprise from Monkey Paw Studios. There’s some incredible cinematography on display here which really made use of the available resources, able to handle anything from grand scale to narrow focus with ease. The opening shots of the city create a dizzying and awe inspiring sense of scale that contrasts powerfully with the later claustrophobic confines trapping the audience with the victims on screen. Whichever extreme or just domestic exchanges DaCosta has shown an impressive range here. Not to rule out the rest of the cast and crew in, this is an example of brilliant filmmaking on every level, but the presence of a skilled director with a vision is something you can feel in the end result. This was a passion project, not a box ticking job. The hand of Jordan Peele is felt in a good way in producer and co-writer duties too, this makes a novel companion piece to his studio’s work so far.
As far as scares go, this is a pleasantly mixed bag. While not in your face trying to make you jump or vomit, but doing a few different things in interesting ways. The kills are sparingly used and loaded with intensity when they come. There’s some surprisingly effective body horror, which was unexpected but soon became a highlight. Then there’s the underlying aspects, the social commentary which puts everything one foot in the real world and the way the urban legend works is going to stay under a lot of people’s skin for a while. Mirrors mean a lot more this time around too, they are used in a lot more surreal imagery to help construct something special above and beyond simply being an ingredient in the ritual to summon the titular Candyman.
Tony Todd’s absence is sadly felt here, though. He made for an eloquent and charismatic presence that really distinguished his Candyman from the slasher icons he followed on from. While this is distinctly a continuation from the events of the first film, things play out in different ways for what are reasonable come the completion of the story. The new Candyman doesn’t have that erudite edge, he may not actually have a single line of dialogue thinking back, but as with most things here his performance and presence in the story is layered. He’s something different, not something less, and Michael Hargrive does a great job in ways which would be spoilers to discuss in detail.
Candyman is a story about stories, about how a narrative can get you killed. It’s densely layered and has a lot to say about cycles, race, and gentrification; all this alongside the main through-line of a dangerous story working its way through a community. The past hits the present with one hell of an impact and there’s more dangers than just the Candyman to contend with, not that there is anything safe about summoning a hook handed vengeful entity filled with bees.
Candyman is well worth the watch, being yet another premium horror feature from a rising star studio with a likewise rising star director who have done the original justice.
Luke Greensmith is an Editor at the Grimoire of Horror and an active folklorist as well as working in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.