Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA/Canada/Australia, 2021. Universal Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bron Studios, Monkeypaw Productions, Creative Wealth Media Finance. Screenplay by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta, based on the 1992 motion picture Candyman by Bernard Rose and the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker. Cinematography by John Gulesarian. Produced by Ian Cooper, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld. Music by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. Production Design by Cara Brower. Costume Design by Lizzie Cook. Film Editing by Catrin Hedström.
It has been just under thirty years since Virginia Madsen took her instamatic into an apartment building in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects looking to research the connection between urban legends and disadvantaged communities. The buildings have been cleared away and luxury condos stand in their place, and in one of these swanky new units lives a painter, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is still working on proving himself, and his curator girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris), who works for a high-end art gallery. She has arranged a showing of his latest collection, artwork inspired by the stories he has heard told of the terrifying boogeyman who shows up in your mirror if you say his name, “Candyman”, fives times in a row.
It can come as no surprise to anyone watching this that more than one person in this film does exactly that, and it results in another series of murders that, this time, involve some cool visual effects of seeing the bad guy in the mirror while, on the real side of the glass, bodies are lifted into mid-air as if by an unseen force and sliced up before your very eyes. Anthony makes the mistake of conjuring the Candyman in his own mirror and begins to see his body slowly transform as if he has a connection to him, one of the more delightful ways in which this stylish reboot connects to Bernard Rose‘s popular original, with Jordan Peele sharing producing and screenwriting duties on this entertaining if ultimately unsatisfying return to a franchise that managed to involve exciting horror and thoughtful social commentary in equal measure.
Peele and director Nia DaCosta up the ante on both qualities, telling a tale of gentrification, police brutality, and the commodification of minority representation by the luxury classes in the form of high art, while also delivering so much more bodily carnage than we got the last time around. What they don’t do, however, is build up a sense of mystery or wonder, rather than having one protagonist who goes on a search for answers and falls down a rabbit hole, narrative duties are splintered among a variety of characters, some in flashbacks to 1977, which mean to create a clean new mythology for the dubiously villainous main character while still tying him quite logically to the stories told in the original. For a while the explanations work out, with pieces of the puzzle dropped in sparingly enough to never feel like the film is overwhelmed with exposition, but the plotting eventually falls apart, whatever was cleverly patterned out in the beginning starts to feel haphazardly made up by the end.