Urban Legends are described as humorous or horrific stories or pieces of information circulated as though true, especially one purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller. They have been around as long as storytelling of any kind and often involve supernatural elements. These "legends" get passed down from generation to generation, often with details being inadvertently changed or omitted. Over time, these stories become embellished and sometimes turn into completely different tales. One of these "Urban Legends" is Candyman about the son of a slave who in the late 1800's who was killed because he was romantically involved with the daughter of a rich white man.
Over the years, "Candyman" grew and changed but at its core, it was about a black man oppressed, beaten, and killed by white people. The 1992 film starring Virginia Madsen (Sideways) and Tony Todd (Final Destination) centered around a grad student named Helen who was doing research on urban legends and folklore for her thesis paper. When she came across the story of Candyman. Fast forward almost thirty years to the present day where artist Anthony McCoy (Yahoo Abdul-Mateen II; Aquaman), after hearing the story of Candyman, decides to research the legend.
He heads to the impoverished neighborhood of Cabrini Green looking for inspiration for his next art installment but, after being stung by a bee, becomes obsessed with the "Ghost". After a few days, he notices his right hand and arm are dying, beginning from where he was stung by the bee. He also begins to see Candyman reflected in mirrors and he finds people, some of whom he knows, are being brutally murdered. After finding Helen's notes and tape recorder, Anthony discovers a horrifying truth about Candyman and his own personal connection to the supernatural entity.
With the screenplay written by Jordan Peele (Get Out), Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone), and director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods), it is easy to see Peele's influence on the dialog and the "feel" of the movie (he produced it as well). From the various camera angles to the haunting soundtrack, Candyman is a mix of Get Out and Us while still maintaining its own identity. DaCosta does a fantastic job with how the shots are set up to make the most use of them in the editing room. She builds tension up to a tipping point, making this thriller a well-balanced delight.
It is fantastic to see Todd recreating a character he knows so well. Candyman is equal parts terrifying (when he uses his hook to slash through someone's throat) to pitiful (as you can see the confusion and hurt in his eyes). Abdul-Mateen II showcases a different side of his acting ability as the sensitive artist who slowly goes a little insane while fully understanding that he had a hand, indirectly, in the murders. Treyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk), as Anthony's girlfriend, adds a necessary layer to the story and cycles through a range of emotions while doing so.
While Candyman is classified as horror/thriller, it is definitely more of the latter with moments of the former thrown in. There aren't really any jump scares but between the camera and lighting work and the soundtrack layered throughout the film, it will leave you thinking about the characters and the plot long after the credits roll.
Peele's movies generally have an undercurrent of racial injustice and Candyman is definitely continuing that trend. There is no sugar coating of the message as the story rips the bandaid right off revealing a testing wound of racism and inequality.
As a horror movie, Candyman is ok..... As a thriller/drama it is outstanding! If the next installment is written by this trio and directed again by DaCosta, then I will be awaiting its release.