by Ella Alalade
Candyman is the stand-alone sequel to the 1992 Candyman, serving a chilling creep-fest. Nia DaCosta beautifully demonstrates how to make a psychological horror. A fresh yet classic take on making the audience focus on the systemic issues within deprived communities, but also how destiny or fate can take an ugly form.
This film is set in Chicago, in the gentrified neighbourhood of Cabrini Green. Focused on the artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his path to find a new story or muse for his paintings to sell, he encounters the story of Candyman. Following on, we see Anthony’s metamorphosis in this film occur like The Fly (1986), where a mental and physical deterioration of him as Candyman starts to haunt his being. Intertwined with the legacy of the Candyman spirit, it describes how Black generational trauma can still impact a contemporary setting. It was also a statement to how ‘Candyman’ is an urban legend which will pass down as a warning to the dangers of structural violence.
This structural violence is prevalent the lasting effects of gentrification and cruel and inherent nature of police brutality. For this film’s plot, the story that’s told is how this new Candyman became the myth, as he was beaten to death, whilst also referencing Tony Todd’s original. This refers to how, despite the changing face of the myth, he’ll always remain to be the doomed victim. Even though this was filmed before the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement, the horror of the police still occurs in a fictional yet real setting.
Yet, the nasty and ugly side of racism manifests itself in its gore to the distant privileged individuals who don’t fear the aspect of death themselves. Their critical misunderstanding of Black art serves to their punishments of violent death, not fearing the urban legend himself.
Alluding to this, DaCosta makes sure we only see the ‘monster’ in mirrors to create a more frightening effect to give the perspective of being unable to control one’s own narrative. Each victim has their fate sealed with the added dramatic tension of the uneasy musical score. The high school bathroom scene demonstrates this perfectly with the audience having to compose their eerie thoughts of the massacre, with mass pools of blood on the floor and bodies being slashed.
The power of paintings upholds the plot and narrative in this film. The image of death occurs throughout visually with the visual art and use of gore. Many times, we see pools of blood, as if it is to be framed onto the wall of an art gallery. DaCosta wants the visual and eeriness of saying the very word, ‘Candyman’ to strike fear into the audience. Along with the visual paintings and graffiti, the use of puppetry hints to Anthony’s journey being out of his control, and the legacy of the urban legend he eventually embraces.
The element of supernatural horror outdoes itself through its modern take. DaCosta and Peele It also incorporates the element of the ‘The Final Girl’. This is a horror trope seen in Alien, Halloween, and Us of the lone woman who survives. Although Yahya shines in his role, Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Harris) as ‘the final girl’ demonstrates how her character was the key protagonist of this story.
DaCosta’s pacing and shots provide a setting of dramatic tension to distinguish itself as a psychological horror. With the discussion of gentrification and misinterpreted art, Candyman is a fresh take on how an urban legend can prevail. Abdul-Mateen II, Harris and Colman Domingo outshine their roles in the settings of a forgotten community of Cabrini Green. However, the added elements of satire calm the spirit for the uncomfortable truths.
The question you will be left with after the film is – Can you ever look at mirrors again?
Candyman is out in cinemas now!