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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in a still from Candyman (category III), directed by Nia DaCosta. Teyonah Parris co-stars.

Review | Candyman movie review: supernatural horror sequel starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is fresh, frightening and relevant

  • A successful artist takes inspiration for his new paintings from the legend of Candyman – but as time goes on, strange things begin to happen
  • Produced by Jordan Peele, of Get Out and Us fame, Candyman is a slick sequel to the original that builds atmosphere from the opening credits to the very end

4/5 stars

The 1992 horror film Candyman, directed by British filmmaker Bernard Rose and based on a Clive Barker short story, The Forbidden, became an instant classic.

The story of an urban myth, it examined the legend behind Candyman – a 19th century son of a slave who was tortured and killed by a lynch mob. Those foolish enough to do so can summon him into being by saying his name five times in front of a mirror.

While two other sequels were shot, Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Day of the Dead (1999), neither matches up to this latest version by Nia DaCosta, director of 2019’s Little Woods. Titled simply Candyman, the film can be considered a direct sequel to the original, returning as it does to the setting of Chicago’s Cabrini Green public housing estate seen previously in Rose’s film.

Here, the ’hood has been gentrified almost beyond recognition. Living in a luxury condo is Anthony McCoy (Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a successful visual artist who is in a relationship with art gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris). He’s looking to mount a new show when he encounters a Cabrini Green resident, William Burke (Colman Domingo), who tells him of the Candyman myth and its connection to the area.

As McCoy brazenly repeats the “Candyman” name five times and begins to take inspiration for his new paintings from this urban legend, strange things begin to happen. After he’s stung by a bee – a stark reminder of the horrors faced by Daniel Robitaille, who became the original Candyman – his transformation begins as he faces the loss of his sanity.

Candyman, in silhouette, in a still from the film Candyman.
Produced by Jordan Peele, of Get Out and Us fame, Candyman is a slick (re)introduction to the world of the Rose/Barker original. DaCosta doesn’t go for too many obvious scares, although a savage attack on several high-school girls in a female bathroom is a little excessive. Rather, she builds atmosphere from the opening credits, as the camera swirls around Chicago’s streets to Robert Lowe’s disconcerting score.

DaCosta, Peele and Win Rosenfeld, who all co-wrote the script, show great respect for the original, diving further into the stories of Candyman and Helen Lyle, the graduate student from the original who first began researching the legend. Tony Todd, who played the lead for Rose, makes a cameo appearance, but nothing ever feels like it’s been done for fan service.

Stealthily directed, DaCosta’s Candyman feels fresh, frightening and relevant.

Teyonah Parris in a still from Candyman.
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