Candyman review: A tale of bloody racial revenge gone wrong

·2 min read

Length: 91 minutes
Director: Nia DaCosta

Screenplay: Jordan Peele
Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Vanessa Williams

In theatres from 23 September 2021 (Singapore)

2.5 out of 5 stars

You've probably heard the saying: never take candy from a stranger.

Candyman certainly attempts to present just that - a cautionary, ever-lurking urban legend shrouded in a bitter wrapping of Black persecution symbolising the racist sins of white America. 

Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is the resident star of the Black art scene in Chicago, his paintings of African-American suffering the pride and joy of the local art scene. He lives in a swanky apartment in the gentrified Cabrini-Green area with his equally swanky girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), an art exhibition curator.

Despite his success, McCoy suffers from artist's block and failing inspiration. But a chance encounter in a laundromat with an elderly gentlemen uncovers the story of the Candyman, an urban legend about a curious lady named Helen Lyle, whose pursuit of the Candyman led to her untimely and grotesque end.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta. (Photo: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures)
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Candyman. (Photo: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures)

The movie is more of an investigative thriller than a horror flick. McCoy begins his search for inspiration in Helen's footsteps. He is stung by a bee in the initial stages of his hunt and as his investigation deepens, the wound festers and acts as a metaphor for his descent into darkness and insanity.

For screenwriter Jordan Peele, the Candyman is not just a horrific figure who can be summoned from reflections in mirrors (say the name 'Candyman' five times for a bloody good time!), but also the manifestation of America's persecution of Black people, extending all the way back before the Emancipation.

Yet, the trail of destruction that the Candyman leaves in his wake is not particularly meaningful or suspenseful, compared to the effective creeping tension of Asian horror. Director Nia DaCosta opted for a more Freddy Meets Jason kind of hack-and-slash which is more visually shocking than spine-chilling, and quickly gets stale as it is repeated in every scene where the Candyman appears.

A hugely redeeming factor is Yahya's magnetic personality as the conflicted artist, whose fervent curiosity and convincing portrayal is constantly failed by the blatantly in-your-face violence and unsophisticated story of superficial racial revenge.

Suffice to say, this is definitely one piece of candy that I won't be taking from a stranger.

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