Candyman review – knowing horror sequel

ion Bernard Rose’s original 1992 horror film, a white female graduate student investigated the Candyman myth and the site of his haunting – Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project – as part of her research. Director Nia DaCosta’s smart, stylish “spiritual sequel”, co-written and produced by Jordan Peele, reimagines its protagonist as a Black artist. In this version, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) mines creative inspiration from the tale of a killer ghost who appears when his name is uttered five times in the mirror.

DaCosta’s visual flair is apparent, from the way she details flesh turning to rotten honeycomb, to the visceral squelch of pressing open a wound. Candyman’s attacks are inventively mounted too, playing out in the reflections of floor-to-ceiling windows and a teenage girl’s compact mirror. Anthony says his paintings “focus on the body”, a self-conscious allusion to the way the director leans into body horror too.

The overall tone is one of wry knowingness, which is DaCosta’s achilles heel. A snotty white art critic (Rebecca Spence) coolly remarks that Anthony’s work takes “a pretty literal approach”. "OK, but how is it hitting you?” he responds, voicing an anxiety on behalf of the film-maker. Meanwhile Anthony’s girlfriend, a gallery owner named Brianna (Teyonah Parris), is praised for her “eye for new talent”, a nod to Peele’s patronage of DaCosta. This constant meta-commentary, and the tendency to anticipate criticism, eventually begins to grate.

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