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  Candyman Killing In The Name Of
Year: 2021
Director: Nia DaCosta
Stars: Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Rebecca Spence, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Christiana Clark, Michael Hargrove, Rodney L. Jones III, Tony Todd
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Chicago housing project of Cabrini Green's high rise buildings may have been demolished, but there are those who remember what it used to be like before gentrification set in and wealthier residents moved into the area. For there is a grim story about the place that has all but been forgotten by these newcomers, assuming they were aware of it at all: artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) was unaware of it, but in the apartment he shares with his agent girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) one evening, her brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and his boyfriend arrive and as the hour grows late, he tells of the Candyman...

It took a while, but after swiftly becoming a cult movie when it was released in 1992, the original Candyman eventually, by the time this sequel was out, had been repositioned as a classic. It was a curious beast for a horror movie, since you could get completely different responses from those who saw it: either it was bone-chillingly scary, or it was ridiculous trash, there was no in between. Therefore it was apt that director Nia DaCosta and producer Jordan Peele's follow-up was another horror nobody could agree on, was it reclaiming a work that was racially problematic because it had been dreamt up by two white, English guys and doing so with the skill experience can bring?

Or was it just as guilty of commodifying some very serious social matters in the service of entertainment, a cheap aim at scares smuggled in under the Black Lives Matter movement? There were even those who were moved to make excuses for Clive Barker and Bernard Rose's source, as it had been claimed to be a white saviour narrative that was deeply unfashionable by the twenty-twenties. Except of course, Candyman '92 was the opposite of a white saviour narrative, it was far more of an entitled white woman getting her comeuppance by becoming so caught up in her dogoodery that she suffers as a result, finally understanding what her disadvantaged black thesis subjects have been through in the most brutal manner possible.

Fortunately, DaCosta and Peele were not about to dump on what they recognised as a superbly crafted gem of nineties horror, indeed this Candyman was as much about paying tribute as it was building on what it had established. The problem with that was when the subtext of that original was replaced with a more overt, lesson learning narrative that was not as subtle as its influence, and that influence was not exactly soft-pedalling its social observations, in fact those were what made it such a rich work, ripe for the analysis we were given here, not in an essay but as an emulation. One thing everyone who appreciated the first film was that it was a scary movie par excellence, thanks to its outsiders' view of the horrifying injustices meted out on African Americans down the centuries, but was this sequel scary?

Well... not really. It was a handsome production, there was no doubt about that, but the setting of the art world and its appropriation of political subjects to bolster its imagery was not as potent as the clash between the original's rarefied academic world and the sobering reality of living with poverty and the self-damaging violence it brings. What this did get right was the storytelling commentary, as the way an urban myth, so central to the authentic unease of the concept, can grow in the telling and in some cases get very out of hand and out of control was extremely relevant to a twenty-first century where social media can spread the wildest tales and nobody thinks to fact check them, or even does not want to, preferring the fiction to the reality. The danger of that was all over Candyman '21, and that was to its advantage, resetting the first film's word of mouth virus of bloodshed (saying "Candyman" in the mirror five times is merely the beginning) as a contemporary issue where too-curious teens and bigoted cops alike can fall prey to unhinged violence, verbal or physical. But you see the drawback: very intellectual, just not suspenseful as a horror flick. Great music by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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