Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Candyman is a "spiritual sequel" to the 1992 original that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.
This has been my most anticipated film of this year so far and I’m so happy to say it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Candyman does what 2018’s Halloween did, it has the same title as the original but it’s a direct sequel that ignores the other sequels in the process and this really was the best decision. This sequel works just as good as a sequel (the callbacks to Helen’s story from the original work so well) as it does a reboot, taking so many things that the first movie introduced and turning them on their head, creating something very refreshing and captivating in the process. What works best here is how for the most part, this doesn’t even feel like a full on horror film, swapping all out horror for a film entirely dedicated to social commentary, incorporating into the premise in a way that works perfectly.
Racism is tackled in a way that raises awareness loud and clear, touching on the horrific events of last year as well as various other incidents by adding a different look at the way characters say Candyman’s name, using it to say the name of victims of racial abuse and asking you who the real villain is within a film where you’re expecting the titular character to be a terrifying slasher villain. When the horror elements are introduced, they’re more effective and make great use of minimalism and the whole what you don’t see, scares you method. The film is filled with moments where you have to look carefully to notice Candyman appearing in certain reflections here and there, and these scenes provide some of the most chilling moments of the film.
There’s some great moments of gore as well as implied kills which feel more graphic because it’s left to the imagination. We’re given some great gay representation which is amazing to see in such a mainstream horror film, there’s really not enough of it these days. The cast all do an incredible job with the likes of Vanessa Williams and Tony Todd returning for cameos and the amazing Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris leading the cast. Both are superb in their roles, sharing great chemistry and putting so much into their performances to help us root for these likeable characters.
Parris provides my favourite performance of the film, selling every single bit of emotion and fear throughout, but Abdul-Mateen really does do a terrific job of making his slow deterioration believable and more effective. The cinematography is phenomenal and brings some nightmarish imagery to life with its stunning style and incredible direction from Nia DaCosta. The backstory puppet scenes all look amazing, it was such a great stylistic decision! The soundtrack is a scene stealer throughout, constantly building the tone and atmosphere, and the inclusion of the original score put a massive smile on my face.
Overall, Candyman lived up to my expectations and then some. Filled to the brim with very effective social commentary that always gets its powerful message across loud and clear. The horror elements are incredible with inventive camera work, nightmarish imagery and some great kills, all alongside phenomenal cinematography, amazing performances, a terrific score and so many great callbacks to the first film. One of my favourite films of the year.
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