Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman”: Film Review

In 1992, the words “Candyman” were first heard uttered on the silver screen. The fictional folklore legend was a unique horror villain for the time, given he was basically an analogy for gentrification and the erasing of black history. The social commentary in 1992’s Candyman was as relevant and shocking as Night of The Living Dead‘s and Get Out‘s in 1968 and 2017, respectively.

Fast forward 29 years and while Cabrini Green may now be lined with specialty coffee shops and out of touch beatniks, the themes of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman “spiritual sequel” are nearly identical to those of the original. Just as the myth was passed down to Helen (Virginia Madsen) in the 1992 version, the myth of Candyman is given to tortured Chicagoan artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) when he attempts to find new inspiration for his latest piece.

Anthony falls down a similar rabbit hole as Helen as his curiosity gives way into insanity. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a direct remake, the original leaves so much room for interpretation. Contrast that with Jordan Peele’s script, which is exploding with exposition and brings every subtlety to the forefront.

It’s a shame as DaCosta’s direction is impeccable here. The wide establishing shots in the beginning of the film are beautiful and show how inconsequential Anthony is compared to the centuries long mythology he’s becoming entangled in. The same goes for DaCosta’s use of mirrors, which create a feeling of inevitable dread in the audience.

While this year’s Candyman may contain an overabundance of explanations to pay homage to its superior original, DaCosta’s understanding of visual storytelling ensures that audiences will continue to “Say his name” for years to come.

The Silver Lining

Given how close the original Candyman and this sequel are tied together, it only makes sense that recaps of the first film would present themselves here so audiences can grasp the entire story. Yet instead of using scenes from the original as flashbacks, DaCosta uses shadow puppets to tell Helen’s story. This creative decision further plays into folk legend side of Candyman and is visually stunning. It’s little moments like these that ensures that DaCosta will deliver an excellent superhero story when The Marvels releases in a few years.

Candyman is now playing at a movie theater near you.

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