Released: 26th August
Seen: 11th November
In 1992 the world was introduced to one of the modern horror icons, The Candyman. The mythology behind him was simple and powerful, he was the vengeful spirit of a man killed in the 19th century for being part of an interracial relationship. He returns if his name is spoken into a mirror five times and, with a hook where his hand should be, does that thing you expect people to do in slasher films. It’s a not even slightly subtle tale about racism and after the third film didn’t do well either critically or financially the series has been on a hiatus since 1999. Well, we’re going through another grand resurgence of classic horror franchises lately with the monster hit Halloween showing that some of these series still have life in them so it makes sense that Candyman returns now when his particular kind of political horror is most definitely welcome.
Candyman focuses on Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an artist currently working on his latest exhibition, an exhibition he only really has because his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) is an art gallery director and knows who to talk to. While trying to find inspiration for his next work, Anthony stumbles upon the story of Candyman and starts to feel some serious inspiration… however, what he also notices is long periods where he can’t remember where he was and those times seem to just perfectly line up to when people around town keep being killed. Has Candyman returned to strike fear into people’s hearts and be the vengeful spirit for the modern age? Well, yeah, that’s why the film is called Candyman. They can’t exactly stealth this one.
When it comes to updating Candyman for the 2020’s, I don’t think anyone could’ve done a better job than Nia DaCosta did. She’s taken this terrifying creature and given him new life, while also using him to make several great points about the modern experiences of black men in America (There’s a LOT of stuff involving cops and none of it is going to make you like the officers involved, let’s put it that way). It’s not subtle about what its message is but that’s kind of what’s needed for this era, a film that will go balls to the wall on all fronts and boy does Candyman deliver on that.
If you want a film with some important political messages then this will give you that, but it also just flat out delivers on some quality slasher cinema. Cleverly blending great character beats with enough scares and red stuff to make even the thirstiest gore hound feel satisfied, this is a slasher film that knows exactly what it’s doing at all times and never lets up for even a minute. Even when things have to go slow to dole out some important exposition, there’s still just a ton of tension bubbling under the surface the entire time and it’s glorious.
Speaking of glorious, Nia DaCosta should be thrown up on a pedestal for creating such a visually stunning film. Every shot is immaculate, brimming with terror and artistry that just shines. The fact that this is her second directorial feature is insane, she’s so good it makes me angry. Apparently Marvel have already snapped her up for the next Captain Marvel movie and good on them for spotting talent like this, but can we please have another half dozen horror films from her because I will devour them all.
The only thing that keeps Candyman from being great is that it’s just too short, even at 90 minutes you can almost feel like it’s rushing at points and some characters kind of just vanish for no reason. It feels like there was some seriously big moments cut from this, or at least that there was more that could be done which kind of stalls the film every now and then. Sure, it gets right back up every time and the final scene is powerful enough to basically give the entire films thesis in under 2 minutes, but that feeling of just powering through as fast as possible never goes away and makes the experience less exhilarating than it could be, though it is still pretty damn good.
Candyman does a lot right, from the brilliant visuals to the powerful story. It delivers pretty much exactly what one would hope for out of a modern Candyman film but it does so like it’s running from a swarm of bees, just trying desperately to get to the end as quick as possible. Still worth looking at, a grand return for a horror legend and the film you should be ready to name when someone asks, “So when did you realise that Nia DaCosta was going to be a huge damn deal?”