Review: Candyman

Though billed and plotted as a sequel to Bernard Rose’s very influential 1992 horror film, the fact that Nia Dacosta’s movie has the exact same title indicates that more is at stake here. And for sure, the director and her co-writer and producer, Jordan Peele, seem determined to reclaim the Candyman character and story for Black people, since the milieu of the story was an infamous Chicago public housing project and the title character the vengeful spirit of a murdered slave. More significantly, the protagonist of Rose’s movie was white, so DaCosta’s and Peele’s aim here is to situate the legend of Candyman among the people he terrorized, but in a post-George Floyd world.

Having never seen the original, I felt at a loss walking into the screening of the new one, thinking that much of the story wouldn’t make sense, but the script (Win Rosenfield also contributed) does an excellent job of incorporating as much of the original tale as possible without bogging down the continuing exposition. And while it seems counterintuitive for a monster, out of vengeance for having been killed by a mob of racists, to prey upon his own people, inevitably the logic of the situations depicted bring the viewer around to the conclusion that anger of such monumental proportions is destructive to everyone. And rest assured, white people here get theirs, which may be the point in the end.

Set among the bohemian Black middle class of Chicago, who have moved into the gentrified housing complex that replaced the demolished project, Candyman also does a wickedly good job of lampooning the tastes of the educated Black striver. Tony (Yahya Abdul-Mareen II) is an artist who is dating an up-and-coming gallery owner, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), and suffering from lack of new ideas when he hits upon the legend of the Candyman as the subject for a series of works. According to the legend, anyone who says Candyman’s name five times while staring into a mirror summons the demon, who will then dispatch the summoner in a very bloody way. After Tony publicizes his series at a gallery opening, the idea spreads throughout the art community and beyond, and several people, just as a joke, summon the Candyman and end up very dead. As with the white academic in Rose’s movie, Tony becomes a suspect in these murders, and as he grows to realize the power of his incantation and the true meaning of the Candyman he himself becomes a kind of inverted superhero. The Candyman is not just one demon, but the collective consciousness of dead Black men with scores to settle. 

DaCosta delivers on the requisite gore, though often laterally and with a certain measure of jokey verve. But what really sets Candyman apart from its ilk is the way it describes the everyday socioeconomic circumstances of Black people as a horror show. Tony and Brianna have climbed the ladder successfully and on their own merits, but it doesn’t take much for them to fall back, and it’s that acknowledgement that underscores the themes that this new version of the Candyman tale sets forth so convincingly and, dare I say, so satisfyingly. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).

Candyman home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2020 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and BRON Creative MG1, LLC

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