Written by Alexander Reams
Horror has been used frequently over the years as a metaphor for racial injustice. To even explain that much of horror is influenced by politics and a mirror on the current society should be unnecessary, but more often than not the message gets lost in translation. From the iconic Night of the Living Dead and The Craft to the more recent Get Out and The First Purge. This resurgence in showing racial injustice through horror has felt damning to society, and brought a breath of fresh air to the horror genre. In walks Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, which trades dialogue telling us why what’s happening is bad for wonderfully brutal, disturbing violence. However, before that disturbing violence, DaCosta treats us to a Shining-esque opening credits through an upside down Chicago, something that not only plays to the themes of the film, but simply looks gorgeous and increased my anticipation for the next 91 minutes to follow.
DaCosta uses Bernard Rose’s 1992 classic eponymously titled film as a jumping off point while weaving in the injustice from our modern culture as the true villain. DaCosta’s film stands proudly on its own, introducing us to the story of Chicago artist Anthony McCoy (a brilliant Yahya Abdul- Mateen II) as he moves to the setting of Rose’s 1992 film, the Cabrini-Green housing projects, that have now been gentrified, something DaCosta never shies away from talking about and ultimately condemning. With Anthony comes his partner Brianna (Teyonah Parris, the unsung hero of Candyman), have moved into this mecca of gentrification, all while pointing out the irony of their residence. While Brianna is succeeding, Anthony seems to be falling behind everyone. Having created nothing in years until he hears a story about what used to stand where they lived. Anthony has a creative burst that Brianna initially sees as a fantastic thing for their relationship. Until the bodies start piling up.
Well, not piling, more like a small bump. The violence and kills are not as frequent as in its 1992 predecessor, but hit harder with the way DaCosta places the camera and blocks each scene. Letting the brutality play out at times, and letting our imagination run at others. Oftentimes, at least for this writer, my imagination can think up so many worse scenarios than what plays out on screen, and when a director is smart enough to tap into that, the scenes have an even higher tension within them. Even still, bodies are starting to turn up, and all after Anthony brings attention to the ritual which can summon the candyman in his latest exhibit. With each kill, Anthony becomes more and more obsessed with Candyman, and one could understand why, myself included. The history is not only fascinating, but you want to know more just from reading it.
Nia DaCosta has crafted a modern horror masterpiece that has explicit tones of race, gentrification, and police brutality. Working through all of these themes with vicious, animalistic kills that are filmed like a work of art being created in front of us. I loved Candyman and I love Nia DaCosta even more now and cannot wait to see her next films, how she evolves and matures as a filmmaker, and how she brings these themes into each of her works.
Candyman (2021) Trailer
Candyman (2021) is currently in theatrical wide release.