Continuing the current trickle of delayed films finally getting their time on the big screen, Candyman arrives with more… buzz than a lot of the fare that we’ve seen over the last few weeks. Produced and co-written by Jordan Peele and co-written and directed by Nia DaCosta who is currently filming The Marvels, there’s some palpable talent joining forces for this modern day sequel to Bernard Rose’s influential cult hit of the same name. That film’s taking of a short story by Clive Barker and transplanting the horror to the Chicago projects is taken further here creating a mythology which feels like it was borne of the rage of the black experience in America right from its very inception.
The idea of Candyman is an irresistibly simple one for conjuring horrors and this happens right from the start, but in exciting, thought provoking ways which twist the audience’s expectations. The idea of storytelling and how truth can be perverted to achieve aims whether malicious or not is key to this film and it does so in both subtle but also in ways which occasionally feel like a sledgehammer smashing a walnut. There are plenty of directorial flushes which play with your expectations gracefully but at times there is dialogue which does rather honk at you to make sure you get where it’s going. The result is a feel which makes you wish it picked a lane a little more, be graceful and subtle or just get rid of all subtext and really ram it home in a way which almost comments on itself more for doing so.
How far your mileage will take you may be relative to what you want out of the film itself. While there is plenty of horror, DaCosta isn’t looking to shout BOO at you and on occasion that’s actually a little disappointing. The kills are staged artfully and with plenty of viscera but they aren’t “fun”, even with a climactic moment where the idea of Candyman as an avenging angel is flirted with which is quickly subverted for a much darker interpretation, something which it could be argued the end of the first film did but in a way which felt bizarrely “hell yeah”.
What this is though, is a very worthy sequel to the original material. There are new ideas brought to the mix about who or what the Candyman actually is, with literally the last 20 seconds then bringing some more ideas to the table to discuss with your cinema going friends as the incredible end credits roll but again, not all of this is successful. At 91 minutes long, the film seems to take a rather purposeful pace until the last 20 minutes when suddenly narrative threads are dropped and the film seems to make assumptions that were perhaps more suspicious of a character and their motives than we otherwise were. The performance from said person, a spoiler to say who, is incredibly locked in and frankly if it weren’t for that, there is material in this stretch which could threaten to capsize the whole film. That it then recovers well for the finale is a relief though again if you like your text sub, be warned.
Candyman is a film which brings up conflict both on-screen and in how effective it is. The effort is incredible and there are sequences which really demand your attention. The gaps in the narrative and the sense that the whole thing really should just be longer do disappoint but they don’t take away from a singular vision with moments which will stay with you. Let’s get a 2 hour directors cut and have a masterpiece on our hands shall we?