Who would have guessed that the end of the summer would bring us some of the most pleasant horror surprises of the year? First, we got The Night House, and now we’re getting a reboot of the Candyman series.
Candyman is a horror film co-written and directed by Nia DaCosta in her sophomore film following Little Woods. This movie is a direct sequel to the 1992 film Candyman, and it follows Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist who begins to investigate the story of Candyman.
The original Candyman is a horror classic, combining the slasher genre with supernatural horror elements. Unfortunately, there were two sequels that failed to win over critics and audiences, but now we’re getting a new film from up-and-coming talent DaCosta. And this was a wonderful movie.
It’s so refreshing to see a reboot of a long-dead horror franchise actually be good. We saw this most recently with the 2018 Halloween, and this time, we have a movie that comes damn close to being as good as the original with the amount of talent in front of and behind the camera.
The concept is simple: say “Candyman” in a mirror five times, and he shows up and kills you with his hook for a hand. The movie does a phenomenal job of building tension surrounding the concept. We know what needs to happen before the vicious kills, so the screenwriters played around with this concept to perfection.
We have scenes of tension where characters are about to say it five times, but they don’t. We have scenes of dramatic irony where characters summon Candyman, resigning themselves to a fate that they believed to be a myth. We have bloody scenes of horror that don’t feel gratuitous but are genuinely horrifying in a graphic way.
The movie does an interesting job referencing the events of the original Candyman, showing how the story was twisted and exaggerated as the years went by. While the movie, unfortunately, neglects the twist of the original film, it takes the new characters to dark places we don’t see too often in mainstream horror.
Funnily enough, in a movie about characters who don’t want to say someone’s name, the marketing has neglected the name of the visionary behind this film. At first glance, you would think this movie was from Jordan Peele, the man behind the excellent horror films, Get Out and Us. However, Peele is only a co-writer and producer on this film.
Say her name. Nia DaCosta. This is her first horror film, and she blows it out of the water. We don’t see too many female-directed horror movies, nor do we see many movies from women of color. However, DaCosta’s passion for film is on full display as she crafts a thrilling horror with some of the most unsettling scares of recent memory.
Ultimately, the movie may be a bit polarizing. The film does not shy away from social commentary, dealing with themes of gentrification and police, which may not be accessible for everyone. The movie can also make choices that don’t fully land.
The final act puts Teyonah Parris’s character of Brianna in the forefront. While Parris is fantastic in the role, she deserved more characterization before being put front and center. Moreover, the film feels as if it ends sooner than it should, almost as if it cut to the credits in the middle of the most exciting sequence in the film.
Some may also be disappointed with Tony Todd’s very brief appearance as the Candyman. However, this movie worked for me, with non-stop style and tension, anchored by astonishing performances from Abdul-Mateen, Parris, and Colman Domingo. It’s a movie that deserves a sequel and may have you avoiding mirrors and uttering the film’s title for a while.
Grade: ★★★★☆ [8/10, B+]
Jonathan’s Tips: Make sure you’ve seen the original Candyman before this one, as it gets referenced. You don’t have to watch the trailer if you’d rather go in cold.
Candyman is in theaters August 27.