The name Jordan Peele no longer just makes horror film fans sit up and take notice. The director and author, originally known as a comedian, has become one of the most exciting genre filmmakers of our time with “Get Out” and “We”. Now he is paving the way to Olympus for the highly talented young filmmaker Nia DaCosta with her new interpretation of the 1990s classic CANDYMAN is a political statement and horror shocker at the same time. More about this in our review.
OT: Candyman (USA 2021)
“Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman” – an ancient legend says that whoever speaks these words into a mirror conjures up a dark figure. A man in a conspicuous fur coat, with a hook instead of his right hand and surrounded by swarms of bees, who is able to painfully murder his victims through reflections in windows and other glass surfaces. The aspiring artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) also learns about this legend when he and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) move to the area that once produced the Candyman. Gentrification has now turned the former Cabrini Green social housing estate into a hotspot for high earners and aspiring millennials, but the shadow of its past still hangs over it today. Long-time resident William (Colman Domingo) tells Anthony about the gruesome background of the Candyman legend, thereby inspiring him to create his latest works. But by the time the Chicago art world is already celebrating him as a new high-flyer, it is already too late: Anthony has long since fallen under the Candyman’s spell…
In the run-up to the release of “Candyman,” parts of the international film press were critical of the film’s marketing. Horror producer, director and writer Jordan Peele took up a surprising amount of space in the first trailer for the genre classic reinterpretation (“From the creator of ‘Get Out’ and ‘We'” – you know the typical PR style). The director and co-writer Nia DaCosta (“Little Woods”) On the other hand, only a tiny one, even though she is actually the driving, creative force behind “Candyman”. Now, the marketing focus on Jordan Peele was hardly a gender issue. Instead, it’s simply much easier to advertise with a now-famous horror filmmaker than with a previously unknown slate. The fact that this will soon change and that Nia DaCosta will no longer be dependent on any support from her male filmmaker colleagues is something that she should be able to ensure with her first studio production that is made accessible to the general public. Their new edition of the horror classic from 1992, with which Tony Todd made himself immortal – in the truest sense of the word – in the slasher role of the same name (at this point we would like to recommend taking a look at the black horror documentary “Horror Noire”) is a such a loud statement that after watching the film you can’t help but eagerly look forward to their next project. And that doesn’t just apply to DaCosta’s stylish production, but even more so to how much she has to say with her film. The original was not only the birth of a horror film legend, but also a biting commentary on gentrification and violence against blacks. The “Candyman” from 2021 now mainly expands the second part in terms of content and hits you in the stomach at the latest with a simple text display at the end of the film, when email addresses and telephone numbers are shown that victims of structural racism can contact to seek help can turn. “Candyman” is so much more than a banal horror film.
Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an aspiring artist who moves to a new area – which holds a dark secret.
It is worth noting that Jordan Peele, who had a lot more experience in the genre, assisted his colleague as a creative advisor (and wrote the script with her and “BlackKklansman” producer Win Rosenfeld) for “Candyman”. It’s not just the narrative mixing of a classic horror film plot with a radical-political (radical in the sense of “clear”) message that supports the Black community. Stylistically, Peele’s influence can also be felt in the details. Peele likes the overview of the disaster, the – in the truest sense of the word – zooming out of a wasp’s nest, or here: bee’s nest, which reveals the big picture and the gradually clearer, initially only hinted at horror without becoming redundant . Just the fact how varied Nia DaCosta stages the numerous kills, which are remarkably bloody for a major studio film, even though the way in which the Candyman proceeds is always identical (he slits his victims’ throats with his hook hand), is powerful. Even the “Candyman” of the 1990s wasn’t necessarily known for his high body count; Michael Meyers, Jason Vorhees and Co. were much more aggressive. In the new version, the creatives go one step further and stage the violence more like a necessary evil. Perhaps also because of the sword of Damocles hanging over the entire film called police violence against African-Americans – and because the idea of revenge for the torment that has always been inherent in the Candyman’s actions is obvious, but given the seriousness of it, it simply shouldn’t be a reason for voyeurism. And that the catchphrase of the film – “Say His Name!” – it is certainly not for nothing that the exclamation that is made in the wake of such shocking cases of racism such as that involving George Floyd is called to remember the names of the people Victim and just not Remembering the perpetrator is certainly no coincidence.
“It is certainly not for nothing that the catchphrase of the film – “Say His Name!” – is exactly the exclamation that is uttered in the wake of shocking cases of racism such as that involving George Floyd, in order to remember the names of the victims and not the perpetrators , is certainly no coincidence.”
In general, one has the feeling that in “Candyman” no visual or narrative detail exists without a reason. From the creative flashbacks staged in the style of a shadow theater, in which the theme of “black and white” could hardly be better summed up, to the omnipresent mirror symbolism, which has always been a popular motif, to the opposite side of oneself to the question of whether “Candyman” is actually a sequel or a remake, each of them fits into the production like a piece of a puzzle. Some people will be particularly irritated by the latter. Especially since Nia DaCosta clearly includes the existing, three-film “Candyman” universe in her story, but only loosely uses individual, established circumstances and also incorporates some new, previously unknown details into the world. But ultimately, given the cyclical escalations in the dispute between white and black (US-American) citizens, you never really know whether this is just another old dispute new flares up (remake), or just continues (continuation). The ending consequently turns out to be pleasantly bitter, but without it verto be bitter. Nia DaCosta clearly has hope.
Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove) is an important part of the Candyman legend.
But political parable or not: “Candyman” is primarily one thing: a genuine horror film that is always aware of its origins as a slasher. It’s not so much the murders themselves that give you goosebumps. Above all, there is an unseemly sense of style in them when Nia DaCosta captures a murder from far away through a window (especially the fact that you don’t see the Candyman in many scenes, but the victims are thrown through the air as if by magic , looks great), another time shows the Boogeyman slitting a guy’s neck and another time just looks at the bloody consequences that the Candyman has once again left behind. “Just don’t repeat anything!” is the motto. Unlike the iconic killer films of the 1980s, “Candyman” does not function according to a rhyme dramaturgy, which would allow one to guess the order of the murders. Instead, DaCosta creates a separate setting for each murder, establishes new characters and justifies this broad field of possible victims, primarily through the media spread of the legend. The fact that the main character Anthony is an aspiring artist not only has an impact on the film’s style (many camera shots are reminiscent of artistic still lifes), but also justifies the gradual spread of the Candyman curse. At the latest after a double murder at an opening where Anthony first draws attention to himself, the legend and the painter are inextricably linked. Both in the perception of the characters in the film and on a plot level. Without giving too much away at this point, Anthony’s existence will prove to be the most important piece of the puzzle in this story; And this is where the issue of gentrification comes into play again. Because thanks to “Poltergeist,” everyone knows that before moving into a new home, you should first check whose land it was actually built on. Or here: on the basis of which legend…
“Without giving too much away at this point, Anthony’s existence will prove to be the most important piece of the puzzle in this story; And this is where the issue of gentrification comes into play again.”
Lead actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“The Get Down”) proves to be a real stroke of luck for his role as the artist fascinated by evil. The mocking look down on all those who take the Candyman curse seriously turns into an infectious obsession by the second half at the latest; That’s just how it is when the wrong muse kisses you or the wrong bee stings you. At times he is reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal in the Netflix thriller “The Art of the Dead Man” – only with a verve that was more common in “Nightcrawler”. The sometimes a little too lurid sequences in which reality and madness mix in Anthony’s perception (keyword: elevator) were not necessarily needed to underline Anthony’s state of mind. Nor does the (admittedly excellently tricked) effect of his arm gradually decaying due to a bee sting, which shows how bad things are (also) with Anthony’s soul. Abdul-Mateen II stands with Teyonah Parris (“Beale Street”) Meanwhile, there is a fabulous colleague opposite who shines not only when she sees the fear for her beloved friend written on her face, but especially in the last minutes of the film. You remember: bitter, but not bitter…
Conclusion: With its stylistically outstanding mix of hardened killer film, accusations of racism and psychodrama about an artist taken over by his muse, “Candyman” is definitely one of the best films of the year the Starting signal for an exciting career for director Nia DaCosta.
“Candyman” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 26, 2021.