This film might be a great update to an iconic horror franchise on its own, but I’m more so interested in director Nia DaCosta’s career moving forward. Can’t stress that enough.
A pseudo-sequel/reboot/refresh of the 90s horror series of the same name, Candyman is all about artistic expression and how a centuries-old boogeyman factors into a world that proves to be far more terrifying than it initially seems. Following visual artist, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), as he fights to find inspiration in an industry that’s threatening to leave him behind, Anthony is pulled into the path of an urban legend that’s only ever spoken about in hushed tones, one that squarely sets his sights on Anthony the longer he digs into Candyman’s tortured history. Grabbing hold of Anthony’s psyche as he unravels at the seams, Candyman starts to ruthlessly murder and maim the people around him, and as the body count begins to rise, Anthony realizes he’s going to need to face personal demons sooner rather than later, or risk being consumed by the literal one stalking his every waking moment.
Right off the bat, it’s clear this movie was in good hands. Directed by a relative newcomer, Nia DaCosta, the look and feel of this film is spot on nearly from the get-go. With a twisted and brilliant sense of cinematography and a first act that slowly but surely gives audiences a foreboding and tension-filled take on a genre that often loses itself in gory spectacles and jump scares, Candyman immediately proves to be the movie that the original film wanted to be, while simultaneously bringing its scares and social commentary to a new generation of fans.
Admittedly losing a slight bit of steam after its fantastic first act, the overall quality of the filmmaking, performances, and care for what came before makes Candyman a slick horror film that takes itself seriously. Piggy-backing on the original film’s focus on the legend of Candyman and how it lends itself to the grand tapestry of the experiences shared by communities that are usually shunned by society as a whole, the filmmakers have come up with some great mythology to add to the already interesting idea of what Candyman is and give fans a solid follow-up and intriguing look into what collective horror looks like.
Other than some slight missteps when it comes to the progression of the script and a few on the nose social commentary elements that feel a bit forced (though the general intent of them is welcome), the special effects range from disgustingly brutal to head-scratchingly mediocre, luckily never falling below a quality level that I would call “bad” or even “average.” Chock full of blood and gore and even some body horror elements that would make David Cronenberg blush, Candyman feels like a step up for the horror genre, much like producer Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us, giving fans of the franchise something to get excited about at every turn, while also leaving them wanting more.
All that being said, it can’t be denied that this film has a few flaws that lessen the overall experience ever so slightly. Mostly stemming from a handful of cliches that more or less have plagued the horror genre since its inception — i.e. dialogue issues, “dumb” and unrealistic character choices and actions, jump scares, etc etc — this film’s missteps leaves its solid script flailing in the wind whenever such a cliche pops up, luckily never feeling as apparent as they could have been, no doubt due to DaCosta’s solid direction. Still, these issues are valid enough that I can’t give them a pass, and while they are most definitely annoying to see, they aren’t bad enough that they ruin the experience.
Directed superbly by DaCosta in a way that makes me super excited to see what she’ll come up with next, Candyman is a movie that successfully builds off of what came before while blazing its path in a genre that needs some new blood. And while it most definitely falls to some well-worn horror cliches more than once, I’m hoping director Nia DaCosta can continue along this path of scares and thrills, because as it stands now, she should not only most helm a Candyman sequel, but also give Hollywood a taste of what else might be lurking within her twisted and creative mind.