Nia DaCosta’s anticipated sequel to the 90s horror film is a refreshing new chapter to the Candyman story. The film takes place about thirty years after the original, in the same Chicago neighborhood, but it’s now gentrified. Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a young artist, looking for inspiration when he hears the story of Candyman. He dives deeper, trying to understand more about the local legend and meets William Burke (Colman Domingo) who tells him more. Inspired, Anthony incorporates the idea of Candyman, including how to summon him, into his artwork titled “Say My Name.” At the gallery opening, his work and talent is initially shrugged off by the local critic and outright blasted by the gallery owner. But when a mysterious murder happens in the gallery and the butchered bodies are found directly infront of Anthony’s work, Anthony’s reputation and the Candyman legend starts to spead like a virus.
One of my favorite aspects of this film is the use of mirrors. In the original, mirrors are simply a portal, a means to summon Candyman. That’s true here in this sequel, but mirrors are also where we can visibly see Candyman. Without them the disturbing images of throats being ripped out by his hook just happen by an invisible force, which is also visually cool and frightening. You begin to seek out the mirrors in the film, looking for a glimpse of Candyman lurking, and sometimes you’ll find him! There’s also a great scene with Anthony looking at himself in a mirror where we really understand what is happening with that infected bee sting.
What DaCosta’s Candyman does best is give the Candyman story back to the black community. It felt riduclous to me that the original focused on a white woman when Candyman was born out of slavery and generations of racial injustice. Even the characters comment on the story of Helen, saying no one cared until a white woman got involved. But here, Domingo’s character passes along the story to Anthony, who’s destined to be part of it more than he knows, and the film actually acknowledges the racist history of Candyman and the impoverished neighborhoods he comes from. Here, Candyman finally feels like a horror movie born out of the black experience, complete with generational “swarms” of police or white mobs to murder each suspected Candyman. The artwork’s title Say My Name comes full circle by the end of the film, not just to summon Candyman, but to never silence the countless victims of white mobs and police violence.
As a horror movie, DaCosta’s Candyman is an enjoyable, suspenseful, bloody ride bringing Candyman higher into the horror pantheon. Tony Todd does a wonderful job reprising the title role nearly 30 years later. The scares and gore were enough to make me jump and look away at times in the theater. And I will be making my husband sit down and watch this with me, so I can see his reaction. I think he’ll especially enjoy the scenes in the girls’ bathroom and in the elevator.
“They will say I shed innocent blood. You are far from innocent but they will say you are. That’s all that matters.”