Say the name, or see the movie, and you’re in for a whole lot of bloodshed – and a hefty splattering of social commentary.
The film is touted as a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 cult classic of the same name. But since I didn’t see the original — or the franchise flicks that followed (1995’s Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead) — I can neither confirm nor deny the spiritual connection. All I know is that despite my general disdain for slasher movies, I have a soft spot for Jordan Peele’s brand of psychological horror message movies (US, Get Out). Obviously the studio was counting on that ‘Peele appeal’ to draw in folks like me. Rather than give the actual director and co-writer Nia DaCosta her due, the marketing blitz makes you think this is a Jordan Peele movie when in fact he is simply a co-writer and producer. That’s kinda evil — and totally unfair to DaCosta.
Sure, there are Peele-isms present, most notably in the way the story tackles issues like social injustice, black lives matter, police brutality, and gentrification while conjuring up a horrifying, homicidal urban legend with a killer hook. But it’s still a traditional slasher movie at its core, with some artsy flare and a suitably tension-inducing score. So it failed to reel me in – at least, not to the extent of those who will surely analyze all the subtext I missed while turning away from ghostly slaughtering, whether overt or merely implied with chunks of flesh and flashes of fear in the mirror from which Candyman was summoned.
For those of us new to the Candyman mythology, the film sets the stage with a quick retelling of the word-of-mouth urban legend ghost story passed along for years by residents of the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood, about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand. Say his name five times into a mirror… and suffer the deadly consequences.
Fast forward ten years since the projects were replaced by luxury lofts filled with upwardly-mobile millennials, and a contemporary incarnation of the horror ensues. Candyman is unwittingly (to some degree) revived by Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist who turns to the macabre to give his struggling career a boost. His paintings unleash a wave of violence and lead to revelations about his own complicated past. The mayhem also jeopardizes his relationship with his girlfriend (Teyonah Parris) who works at the gallery where his killer art is featured. And oh yeah – some really annoying people die.
Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to summon an evil spirit. Society can sometimes really suck. And if you don’t like horror movies – ever – Candyman is unlikely to bowl you over.
Candyman opens in theaters only on August 27.