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CANDYMAN (2021) Review

Matt calls Universal Pictures CANDYMAN “a fantastically crafted slasher movie” and “one of the best horrors of 2021.”

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Candyman (Universal Pictures)

Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Colman Domingo. Directed by Nia DaCosta based on a screenplay written with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. The film hits UK cinemas on August 27, 2021.

Synopsis

For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighbourhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II; HBO’s Watchmen, Us) and his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris; If Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials.

With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini Green old-timer (Colman Domingo; HBO’s Euphoria, Assassination Nation) exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifyingly viral wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

Review

According to the legend, if you look into a mirror and say ‘Candyman’ five times, his spirit will appear and kill you. 

The legend spans as far back as the late 19th Century regarding a black painter who fell in love with a young white woman.  Her father hired a small mob who chased the painter across the town before eventually catching up with him, they cut off his arm, threw a meat hook into the stub and then coated him in honey for the bees to attack him.  This causes his spirit to remain on the earth as an angry spirit to kill any who mutter his name 5 times in a mirror.

This film serves as a continuation from the original 1992 film, turning the events of that into a modern day urban myth.  Upon hearing of the legend of Helen Lyle and her connections to the urban legend, our main protagonist Anthony uses the legend as inspiration for his newest art pieces and while they are largely overlooked and underappreciated, his inclusion of the Urban Myth in the artwork brings the Candyman back from obscurity as the killings add up.

The film strikes some very tough notes throughout, leaning towards the legends’ history and its connections to racism and persecution of the black communities, even tying into the history of police brutality against black people.  Noting the latest embodiment of the Candyman was he himself a victim of being murdered by the police despite being innocent of any crimes.

At no point does it shy away from these issues which echoes very closely to Jordan Peele’s previous written works ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’.  His writing hits hard and creates an entertaining and also tense story.  

To throw a play on words into the mix, this film hooked me in from the very beginning with its incredible camera work (the opening credits being a ‘mirror’ of us almost looking down at high-rise buildings through the view of a reflection on the ground.).  Utilising some very clever camera tricks and blurry reflections to show the killer can only be seen in reflections.

The cast were all spot on as well with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II expertly portraying a man losing his grip on reality the closer he discovers the truth of what’s happening and what he has unleashed while Tayonah Parris portrays a woman desperate to regain control of this situation despite its uncontrollable nature.  She along with the rest of the main cast hilariously try to avoid the clichés from horror movies, ranging from refusing to even jokingly try to summon the Candyman to actively avoiding going down into a dark basement.  These minor laugh moments are the small breathers you get throughout a continuously intense film.

My one critique though is the final act’s twist villain which had me scratching my head a bit on the 180’ turn as it did not feel like it was built up on.   More like it just happened and we just went with it.  Though the first and second acts do enough to keep the third act from completely falling flat.

Verdict

Candyman (2021) is a fantastically crafted slasher movie, setting it apart from others by giving the ‘slasher’ a sentimental backstory as well as blending the urban myth to the racial issues still going on today as well as its impact on the poorer black communities.  It hooks you in from the start and refuses to let go.  If you want a tense and scary experience then this might be one of the best horrors of 2021. 


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