Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 31 minutes, Director – Nia DaCosta
After finding inspiration in the urban legend of Candyman for an art project, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) unleashes a new onslaught of killings in now gentrified Chicago.
“A story like that lasts forever. That’s Candyman”. Nia DaCosta’s quasi-sequel to 1992’s Candyman demonstrates the timelessness of urban legends. It places itself firmly in the modern day. Its events, settings and style all feel completely modern, helping to flesh things out and engage you within the world in which darkness is once again unleashed. It’s brought back by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Anthony, an artist struggling to find his next piece. However, on discovering the legend of Candyman his inspiration is jumpstarted, forming the beginnings of a downwards spiral into a world of bloodshed and dark mystery.
DaCosta’s atmospheric use of the camera, tracking Anthony’s movements and the towering streets of gentrified Chicago create the feeling that he’s constantly unsafe. Always in danger in the busy, open streets of the hive-like city. It sets in an unsettling feel. Putting you on edge over the course of the short 91 minute run-time of the piece. When it comes to gore things are kept relatively light throughout, however when it does appear it’s certainly effective. The most impact is often from what you don’t see rather than that which you do – although there is still plenty of effective slasher scenes and slight body horror to further shake you. It shows the world that Anthony has entered and what could become his fate as he becomes increasingly panicked that he is being stalked by the Candyman – hidden really well in the background mirrors of many scenes. A scene set in an entirely mirrored lift is tense even before Anthony has completely entered it.
We see Abdul-Mateen’s character delve into an increasingly mad state, worrying his girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), and those around the pair; such as her brother. Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). His behaviour, much like his art, becomes much more chaotic and unpredictable. The only thing that’s certain is his obsession with this local myth – fuelled further by Colman Domingo’s sinister dry cleaners owner. Yet, we follow Anthony on his investigative journey as he appears to become a part of the very thing that he’s investigating. There’s an intriguing and chilling narrative here that keeps you captivated within its details. Both in terms of the narrative and visuals. Your eyes are kept in the centre of the screen, almost looking the characters in the eyes in complete seriousness as they stand in the centre of many a symmetrical setting. DaCosta’s direction is fantastic as she brings to life every scene and piece of scenery. Forming a true sense of current-day tension that calls back to the original film well through creative use of shadow puppets – be sure to stay throughout the credits!
Everything combines to create a fine sense of atmosphere to this continuation, rather than updating, of a story that is expanded thanks to the exploration of urban legend. It makes the most of its setting and the things that have changed in the nearly 30 years since the release of the original film, and the threatening figure who still looms. The city is his domain and it’s apparent that it’s only a matter of time until things get worse. Each killing shows this, each more intense than the last. Each one built up to overtime and allowed to have an impact rather than being shown for the sake of it and just moved on from. At a short 91 minutes this is a well-paced film that, while potentially needing a few more minutes in the twists and turns of the shocking third act, there’s plenty of detail packed into this iteration of Candyman. A new take on the tale that knows exactly what to do with that very story. A true atmospheric and tense challenge to say his name, if you dare.
Nia DaCosta forms an atmospheric modern horror that truly puts you on edge as each great performance enhances the already high detail of this fine expansion and exploration of an urban legend.