Review: CANDYMAN Expands Legend Through Brilliant World Building

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman holds strong connections to Bernard Rose’s classic while carving a fresh take on the original story. Deciding to expand on the legend of Daniel Robitaille by incorporating another story similar to his. This iteration of Candyman is less subtle in expressing its themes, but the powerful direction, impressive world-building, and top-notch performances keep it afloat. Candyman is a unique spin that never grows dull and carries this feeling of dread and unease throughout.

The themes of injustice are on display just like they were in Rose’s 1992 film. However, the subtly in Rose’s film is missing from this new iteration, but it still stands strong on its own. The transfer between not only racial perspectives, but the ties it shares to the events of the original, is chilling to watch unfold. Directed and co-written by Nia DaCosta, who teams with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfield to pen the screenplay. Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Colman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Rebecca Spence, Teyonah Parris, Vanessa Williams, and Tony Todd. The film centers on Anthony McCoy (Mateen) and his partner Brianna Cartwright (Parris), who moved into the gentrified Cabrini. Anthony’s artistic career becomes revived after he learns about Candyman, but this unlocks a viral wave of violence.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

DaCosta’s vision never strays from the original lore and builds on it in ways that by rewatching the original you will notice certain moments pointing to the events in this new film. The lovable bond established between Anthony and Brianna early on makes them a likable pairing. Brianna is an art gallery director, while Anthony is struggling to maintain his status as an artist in Chicago. Upon learning about Candyman from an old-timer in Cabrini, William Burke (Domingo). Anthony’s new macabre depictions in the art gallery lead to gruesome murders connected to his new artwork. Candyman does feel like it’s being held back by its runtime, clocking in at just over 90 minutes long. The characters can feel underdeveloped, but the emotional distress they endure makes for a very uncomfortable watch. Anthony and Brianna both have trauma they are dealing with, but Anthony’s trauma had been locked away his entire life.

Love is evident between the two, so audiences will feel for the pair when it begins to crumble. It’s a complete contrast to Helen Lyle’s relationship crumbling because her husband was disloyal. The writers position Brianna as being highly intelligent, it’s great to see a character maintain common sense throughout the film. She is written in a way that subverts tropes that would have lead to a character’s death. Candyman does have some hit-or-miss dialogue along the way, which makes the racial themes come off aggressive at times. While crucial to the narrative, it could have been written better. Peele’s touch is felt when the humorous dialogue is present, but it’s never overdone. The film suffers from being more focused on its message than spending time developing the characters on screen.

(from left) Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Mateen’s performance as Anthony McCoy is unnerving to watch. The second he summons Candyman, audiences are in for a gripping descent into madness. Anthony is the young child Helen saved towards the end of the original, but he has been raised on lies to keep him safe. His interactions with his mother, Anne-Marie McCoy (Williams), are disheartening for his character because he must confront the knowledge of Candyman always being after him. Williams’ brief return as Anne-Marie is satisfying enough, and her chemistry with Mateen makes them believable as mother and son. Parris shines as Brianna, the gallery director who tries to protect Anthony from his pending demise. The trauma Brianna holds onto from her childhood makes it easy for audiences to side with her during this ordeal.

Dacosta’s direction is superb, the script is muddled, and most of the characters are hollow, but her unique camerawork is undeniable. The use of mirrors to capture the kills in Candyman is done tremendously. She creates this atmospheric feeling of dread from the moment the film starts with the shots of Cabrini while Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s score chimes in to amplify the uncomfortable feeling established. Capturing the kills through reflections, the gore is in great supply, and some of the kill sequences/body horror are so well shot. Dacosta’s depiction of body horror will have viewers wincing in their seats. Candyman features gorgeous visuals, its cinematography creates an appealing scenery for the kills when they occur. 

Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

This spiritual sequel doesn’t surpass the original, but what it manages to do through expanding the mythos is incredible. Daniel Robitaille (Todd) is still Candyman, but the film explores how this character has adapted to stay relevant. Dacosta’s direction combined with the disturbing visuals and stellar performances makes this the best follow-up to Rose’s superior film. Being held back by its short runtime and the clunky script doesn’t ruin the stronger aspects. Candyman is a worthy continuation that fans of the original can appreciate.

 

By Eric Trigg

 I am Horror fanatic that can't go a single month without watching something horror related. Buffy Summers, Sidney Prescott, and Harry Potter for president. The fact that sequels exist proves there is no perfect film. 

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