PG Score: 7.75/10
Candyman is an atmospheric, unsettling experience that burrows in the skin as the slow-burn narrative unfolds. Placing the deeply troubling record of mistreatment of Black Americans at the forefront, Writer/Director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) makes an emphatic horror debut with the help of Co-Writers/Producers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld.
More of a successor than a reboot, the movie is a direct follow-up to the 1992 original of the same name and employs a similar blueprint to Halloween (2018) by ignoring the events of the sequels from '95 and '98. It takes place in the same location as Cabrini-Green, the real-life former Chicago housing project where the legend began. Artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini, and as they adjust to their surroundings, an otherworldly surge of terror is renewed.
The opening sequence explores the central entity's tragic roots and lays the groundwork for the brand of horror to come. It also showcases DaCosta’s knack for effective buildup, both in-scene and in terms of the overall plot. The storytelling works well for the most part as both the mystery and origins behind the titular figure are gradually unveiled. The tension remains high throughout and is amplified by a remarkable score from Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. The music seamlessly meshes with each scene, especially the more horrific ones.
Candyman is elevated by exceptional camerawork and superb special effects. Cinematographer John Guleserian utilizes long shots and clever angles in all the right moments for maximum cinematic impact. His technical prowess also bolsters the vivid body horror as the movie does not hold back in the gore department. The hook-wielding supernatural force shows no mercy on his victims, and while far from gratuitous, there is little left to the viewer’s imagination.
Minor Pacing Issues
While the slow-burn style is mostly conducive to success, there are a few points when the film loses too much momentum. Digging deeper into the beginnings of the shadowy Candyman is interesting, but it should not come at the cost of pacing. The majority of the slowdown occurs in the second act, but thankfully, it does not detract too heavily from the otherwise engaging tale.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II delivers a solid performance as Anthony McCoy, who is plagued by demons from his past while being forced to contend with the danger that lies ahead. The Aquaman star communicates significant emotion without saying much in his portrayal of the quiet character. The despair running rampant within Anthony is palpable through his skilled acting. Teyonah Parris adds another quality performance to her filmography as Brianna Cartwright. She confidently depicts the driven, successful art connoisseur and has strong chemistry with Mateen.
The supporting cast in Candyman is defined by the work of Colman Domingo and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. Domingo is compelling as the mysterious William Burke, and a great deal of the backstory’s intrigue is thanks to his acting chops. Stewart-Jarrett offers timely comic relief as Brianna’s brother, Troy.
An Impressive Horror Debut
Nia DaCosta blends stirring visuals, well-crafted frights, a clever screenplay, and a hard-hitting examination of racial injustice to make an intoxicating horror cocktail that pays homage to both the original film and the history behind the shared setting. Minor pacing issues aside, Candyman is sure to quench the thirst of fans of the genre and make everyone think twice before looking in the mirror.