Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist looking for his next project. When he hears about a local legend regarding a killer with a hook for a hand, he becomes instantly intrigued and starts investigating. As he learns and paints more however, his mind begins to unravel and Anthony quickly realizes he may have unwittingly unleashed an evil that was long forgotten.
With this new iteration of CANDYMAN, Co-Writer/Director Nia DaCosta has done what so few films of its ilk have done before: she has created a decades-later Sequel that does not rely entirely on nostalgia to tell her story and twists the narrative in ways that both complement and surpass the original 1992 film. The themes she explores here unpacks that Film’s notion of the unparalleled power of an urban legend and then repatriates it into a larger story about systemic racism, gentrification, trauma and Black Diaspora. It is a lot to chew on for a movie that is just over 90-minutes, but DaCosta’s decisions here lead to the kind of bold and economical choices that we barely see in franchise films. The confidence she exudes in only her second feature film is astounding, and I hope and pray that she is afforded that kind of scope and voice on her next project.
While I enjoyed DaCosta’s depiction of the brutal mayhem that ensues in the wake of Anthony’s discoveries (purposely inflicted mainly on arrogant White people), I could have used substantially less CGI bees. The makeup, gore and body horror effects are stellar, as are the Cinematography and Score. The use of puppets (also used extensively in the Film’s marketing) is an interesting storytelling twist that says everything it needs to without relying on ghastly flashbacks. The only element that could have used some finessing was character development and motivation. For all of the themes DaCosta’s screenplay (whose credit is shared with Writer/Producers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld) encompasses, she could have gone deeper with her characters. They are well-rounded, but I feel they deserved further exploration instead of having relevant information glazed over in favour of maintaining the Film’s momentum. I do not fault her for trimming things down given the wonderfully lean running time; I just wish that some ideas were given the same amount of love as others.
Despite those shortcomings, the Cast DaCosta has assembled are terrific in their roles. Abdul-Mateen is positively electric as Anthony, as is Teyonah Parris (recently seen as Monica Rambeau on WandaVision) as his girlfriend Brianna. They both go through hell and really capture the essence of the story DaCosta is telling. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett practically steals the Movie as Brianna’s brother Troy, getting all of the best lines and laughs. Yet CANDYMAN’s undisputed MVP is Colman Domingo, who brings the same kind of unbridled intensity here that he brought to his scene-stealing role in Zola earlier this summer. He is on a completely different level here and brings just the right inflections and emotions to all of his scenes. If he was not on everyone’s radar before, he certainly is now.
CANDYMAN was more than worth the wait. It surpasses and builds upon the foundation of the original film in ways few sequels can. There is an anger and an authenticity in the themes DaCosta explores, and the atmosphere she envelopes everything under is stunningly realized. The acting is terrific, as are the makeup and gore. And the Film’s few shortcomings do not take away from how bold and confident the final product is. It is a must-see for Film and Horror fans alike. Now all that is left is for you to say his name in a mirror five times.
Universal Pictures Canada unleash CANDYMAN in theatres on August 27, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*