Candyman

Candyman ★★★

Compared to something like Halloween or Psycho, following up Candyman presents a tricky line to walk. Like its contemporaries, the 1992 original featured an iconic villain performing gory kills with an iconic weapon. But true to its Clive Barker roots, those slasher elements were merely the framework for a tragic Gothic mystery meditating on folklore and urban legends as racial/social mirrors.

With Candyman 2021, director Nia DaCosta - along with co-writer/producer Jordan Peele - deliver a mixed yet very worthy continuation (and it is very much a direct sequel). The legacy of communal legends and racial trauma is explored through a very different, much bloodier lens from the Gothic original. Hazy mythic unease is now a more personal journey through the Candyman mythos, a film churning with timely anger and gushing crimson.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II continues his stardom ascent as artist Anthony McCoy, whose creative rut leads him to memorialize the traumas of Cabrini Green - now gentrified save for a few remnants of its project past - for his next showcase. It’s a curious role: not exactly likable, yet still charismatic, able to portray confusion and terror and menace with equal conviction. But even with a strong protagonist performance, Colman Domingo practically steals the show; his old-timer resident juggles enigmatic charm and seething contempt. That anger feeds into the intriguing twists on the titular entity itself, the face and story shifting with the era but always a hook-hand incarnate of racial injustice.

All those factors support a story that’s both a lingering consequence of that fateful bonfire and a grisly slasher with its own merits. DaCoasta directs Candyman with striking precision; the supernatural murder set-pieces and festering body horror (trypophobes beware) are top-notch sequences, offering inventive mirror imagery and gruesome bloodshed. The ideas presented, those baritone promises spoken years ago made flesh in ways both very Freddie’s Revenge and very unexpected, the righteous relevance underpinning the Candyman story: those all captivate.

I’m just not sure it all coalesces in the end. The ambitions are admirable and provocative, but the pacing seems awkward, breathless at times, maybe due to edits for time. The most central connection to the original - the McCoys themselves - becomes the aspect most pushed to the background, just when it seems to gain relevance. The final act suffers the most, so jarringly constructed that I wasn’t sure if I missed a scene somewhere. How the various subplots connect and how the ending eventually unfolds left me more puzzled then enchanted. A messy abrupt conclusion for a film that had progressed so confidently until the time came for pay-offs and denouements.

That said, the literal final minute comes through in the clutch. I have a good feeling that I’ll like Candyman 2021 even more upon rewatch

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