Candyman (2021)

A movie with a lot on its mind, this strong horror film combines social commentary and slow burn suspense to incredible effect.

This is a kind of sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name. This is one of the most interesting sequels I’ve seen because although it hits all the notes of a sequel it never feels like a sequel. It tells its own story and has its own intentions.

The story follows a struggling painter named Anthony, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He and his girlfriend a successful art curator, played by Teyonah Paris, have just moved into a new apartment that was built on top of the bulldozed remains the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Cabrini-Green was a famous low income housing area that started with the best of intentions but due to lack of funding, aggressive policing, and rampant poverty lead to a crime infested area that was eventually shut down and destroyed. Only to be rebuilt as high rises for the well off.

This is a horror film that is as much about gentrification as it is about scaring the pants off it’s audience. The horror and social commentary come together really neatly in the form of Candyman. In the film, Candyman is an urban legend. If you say his name five times in the mirror, he’ll appear behind you and kill you. It’s a spooky game teenagers play during slumber parties. Or maybe it’s more…. Yeah it’s more. That question was central to the original film. This movie takes the idea of Candyman and expands on him tying him into the violence and the memory of that violence committed in a contain neighborhood.

This is Nia De Costa’s second film and her first horror. She nails it. She employs my favorite horror tactic. She fills every frame with something to notice and be afraid of. For instance some morons play the game and after saying Candyman five times a figure can be seen lurking in every mirror and reflective surface in the room. Sometimes it’s just the corner of the frame. Sometimes you don’t notice it until he moves. I love that kind of thing.

She sets the tone right off the bat with the opening credits. I normally find opening credits to be something to fast forward through on my way to the movie. These are awesome. They are set to a haunting soundscape of music and elementally frightening sounds. And they are made up of shots of Chicago buildings and landmarks disappearing into a cloudy foggy sky, but shot in the most unnerving way. It might give you vertigo.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is great. Teyonnah Parris is fantastic. Colman Domingo is always wonderful and here he’s particularly effective.

There’s so much to like here, but it does feel uneven. I think there’s too much going on in the way of themes De Costa is trying to carry. Some elements don’t fit evenly and some moments seem to fall through. There’s also a couple of horror moments that are shockingly effective in the moment, but don’t serve the narrative as strongly as I think they could. My final complaint is that the ending feels abrupt. The more I think about it the more it works, but I think it might be disappointing to some viewers.

It’s creepy, unsettling, and gruesome. It really worked for me. It’s s strong film from De Costa, and one I’ll add to my annual Halloween viewing.

It’s my cup of tea A-

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