It began with the compelling teaser trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9O9_-bv5qE) for the new film, “Candyman” by Nia DaCosta. No words accompany the shadow puppetry show inspired by the silhouette art of Kara Walker. Here we witness the unthinkable, gruesome atrocities committed against innocent African Americans. This was the first indication that DaCosta’s version of the horror classic was going to be distinctive. To begin, this dynamic director co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar winner Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, and in the remake, they use the 1992 film as a jumping-off point, keeping the horror and expanding it into an urban legend fitting it within the context of African American folklore and history. And much like Peele’s compelling and terrifying award-winning film, “Get Out,” they use horror to reflect the continuing trauma that impacts African Americans to this day with the continued cycle of violence.
It’s interesting how DaCosta uses the fact that Candyman appears mostly in mirrors (which we all own), glass doors, and windows to whip up the anxiety and when he’s finally seen — in his shearling-trimmed overcoat, his sparkling and menacing hook, and terrifying smile — we understand that we are in a world of trouble.
Candyman is a powerful symbol of unbridled terror who is accompanied by buzzing bees, a throwback from the origin story.
The casting is superlative with Abdul-Mateen (“Watchmen”) delivering levels of charisma that signal we are meeting a new leading man. As the character Anthony, we believe his obsession and understand his lettering toward the brink of madness. We buy it all.
The sequel to the 1992 classic follows a brilliant visual artist named Anthony McCoy (Emmy Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is in a rut and his art curator girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) who move into a luxury apartment in a new gentrified Chicago neighborhood called Cabrini-Green. After discovering the origin of the Candyman urban legend, from Cartwright’s brother and Cabrini-Green resident William Burke (Coleman Domingo), McCoy painted the grisly details of the tale in his artwork, unknowingly summoning the vengeful spirit.
His interest piqued and falls into the story of the relentless supernatural killer with a hook for a hand. While investigating, he meets longtime resident William Burke (Colman Domingo), who fills him in on the history, including the bonfire that consumed Helen and the return of a baby boy, believed to have been kidnapped by Candyman.
Anthony pours his life force into his artwork, creating a mixed-media piece called “Say My Name,” which is a bathroom mirror that opens to reveal unsettling images within. The artist community doesn’t embrace the work to Brianna’s disappointment, but a handful of people call out the name Candyman five times into that and other mirrors, which according to legend will summon his spirit.
Then it begins. That slow tick towards the end as grisly deaths start mounting and Anthony’s stock instantly rises in the art world. His name is being tossed around on television news reports wrapped around the coverage of the bloody killings of two associates and weirdly, he begins to like his twisted fame and dives into work on a whole Candyman series of paintings, but saying his name opens a powerful, supernatural door to the past that reveals itself in terrifying manifestations before ultimately coming full circle.
“Candyman” is beyond brilliant with its fresh take on the tried and true horror genre in every way and by flipping the perspective, here with see a furious Candyman popping up in mirrors as he’s brought back to being relevant to a new generation. Director and co-writer Nia DaCosta is the one to watch and frankly to place your bet on.