Film: For me, Candyman was the last of the really amazing horror franchises. Based on a Clive ‘Hellraiser’ Barker story ‘The Forbidden’ and directed by Paperhouse’s Bernard Rose, it starred Tony Todd from Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead remake as a supernatural slasher, akin to the likes of Freddy Krueger, but with his revenge coming from a tragic backstory of victimisation and prejudice rather than one of a paedophilic lust that resulted in his doom.
If there was anyone to take the franchise and relaunch it, it would certainly be Jordan Peele. Peele co-produced and co-wrote this film with Wil Rosenfeld and director Nina DeCosta, who direction here impressed me so much that I have become an immediate fan!
Candyman tells of up and coming artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who has seemingly been struggling to find his artistic ‘voice’, and that seems to be holding back his success. Luckily, he is supported by his partner, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), who is employed by a local art gallery.
In the quest to find his voice, Anthony visits Cabrini-Green, a part of Chicago that was once a housing project that became an area which was riddled with crime and became neglected by the government, and meets William Burke (Colman Domingo) who introduces him to the horrific story of the Candyman, a man who in Cabrini-Green in the 70s was accusing of disfiguring a young white girl by putting a razor blade in candy that he regularly offered the local children, and was beaten to death by the local police.
Legend has it that if you say ‘Candyman’ in a mirror 5 times, he will appear and murder you, and this appeals to Anthony, jumping onto the myth and creating art based around it. The problem is, sometimes when you open a door to a legend, it refuses to allow the door to be closed, and Anthony, both mentally and physically, starts to devolve as he discovers that maybe the legend of the Candyman is much MUCH more than it seems…
I have to say I went into this with low expectations. Not because of anything to do with the filmmakers, quite the contrary, I loved Peele’s Get Out!, Us, and Twilight Zone series, so his involvement was probably the thing that really made me pursue it. Instead it was that I have an irrational aversion to production companies digging up old franchises to revitalise them. Get Out! and Us are perfect examples of this: why the hell would I want to watch a continuation of a series that died over 20 years ago when there is modern, relevant horror like these titles being made.
Perhaps money talks, but judging from the extras, there certainly is a fondness in the black
community for the Candyman, so maybe now is the perfect time to bring back such a character!
DeCosta’s direction was the first thing that stood out for me. Her use of reflection in this as a tool to tell the story is amazing. So many scenes are shot looking at the reverse of the image that it creates an even more dream-like state. I was reminded of Ron Howard’s EdTV where almost every shot begins looking at a TV screen in a way to describe that what you see on TV may not be real. There’s also this fantastic replication of the opening top down view of the first Candyman movie, but, taking the ‘reflection’ idea, it’s shot from below look up. This could also be a look at the people who were trapped in Calibri-Green and other projects like it, and their desire to escape.
The cast are also on point and completely believable. Abdul-Mateen II’s artist is not one we would normally see in a film. Artists are usually seen as struggling financially, but here we see one who is having trouble expressing himself. Parris is a wonderful support to this character, being the driving force behind Anthony, and as someone who has a successful partner who drives me on with my various endeavours, I think I believe in this character more than most! Domingo is also a fascinating character with his sage-like information feed to Anthony, but it never quite feels right, and that pays off in the end.
Flashbacks in this film are also done with an idea that was welcome, and in a film about an artist, both Anthony and the original Candyman, perfectly suitable. Manual Cinema, a shadow puppeteering company, do all the flashbacks in this fashion, and the stories have this beautiful abstraction to them that’s welcome.
The soundtrack by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe suits the film as well, as it’s combination of soundscapes and voices put the viewer on edge constantly. I like these less traditional scores by untraditional performers and this one nails it.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and it’s a welcome throwback to the original, and doesn’t ignore the original story, (one section even reveals a photo of Virginia Madsen in it). DaCosta has truly made a film that is proper horror; I’m not sure if I want to see another film in this series, but i think this addition to the legend in the current political climate was timely.
Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc:
An Alternate Ending that I thought could have almost been a post credit sequence that was interesting and possibly a shame it wasn’t included as that.
There’s 3 deleted/ extended scenes that I’m actually disappointed weren’t included. One is an extended take on the art critics commentary on how it’s artists that cause the gentrification of poor neighbourhoods, next is the suicide of Brianna’s father and finally one where we see a bit more of just how awful the high school mean girls are. I’m not one to normally care deleted scenes but I liked these and realistically they were no more than a minute or two in total.
Say My Name talks about the legend of Candyman, and discusses briefly the violence committed on the minority communities in America. It may only go for 6 minutes or so, but the emotion and content of Tony Todd’s final words makes you stop and think.
Body Horror looks at the devolution of Anthony’s body after the bee-sting he receives at Cabrini Green whilst investigating the Candyman. It’s pretty gross. DaCosta mentions that she was influenced by David Cronenberg and it’s apparent.
The Filmmakers Eye: Nia DaCosta looks at DaCosta’s take on the Candyman legend, and how important it was to have a different cultural take on the legend.
Painting Chaos looks at the work on the film of Hamza Walker, an art consultant, who created basically an art show for Anthony’s work to be displayed amongst. To give it legitimacy, they borrowed work from black Chicago artists so that the art shows weren’t just a bunch of stuff on canvas bashed together by an art department, but instead really represented the local art community. They also look at the artists who did the work for the character of Anthony, Cameron Spratley and Sherwin Ovid, two completely different types of artists but both whose work really adds depth to the character.
The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe looks at the score and soundscapes made for the film, and the take that Lowe has of Philip Glass’ original score.
Terror in the Shadows looks at the stunning beautiful shadow marionettes used in the film created by Manual Cinema.
Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror is an interesting discussion hosted by Colman Domingo with experts on horror and real-life trauma and mental health and the reverence of the character both to the black and horror communities.
WISIA: Seeing as how I enjoyed DaCosta’s work so much I can definitely see me watching this again.