As the urban legend goes, if you repeat the word “Candyman” in the mirror five times, an ominous presence will unapologetically seal your fate.  If repeating “Candyman” is a representation of evil, perhaps a representation of  good will would be repeating Nia DaCosta’s name in a mirror five times.  Maybe if we all did, we could encourage her to keep making great movies like Candyman.

Speaking of encouragement, not only do I recommend Candyman, but I also suggest to my viewers to scour the internet for the various opinions DaCosta’s film has sparked.  People have already written thoughtful takes on the film’s themes of culture and race, for instance, because Candyman initiates discussions.  It’s another strong example of how movies can compel audiences.  For me, Candyman was a fantastic story about a struggling artist, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), trying to persevere through his own failures as a storyteller.  It’s not that Anthony hasn’t found his voice, he simply can’t communicate through his medium or find the appropriate way to convey his passion.  From scary stories or meditative art pieces, everyone runs circles around Anthony.  Even an uptight art critic believes she has a better understanding of Anthony’s culture than he does.  He’s offended, and angry that she is able to get away with it.  However, the art critic has traits that Anthony is obviously jealous of.

The legend of the “Candyman” lurks in the background, occasionally pushing its way towards the screen and then returning to linger in background details.  The boogeyman horror, however, hooks itself to Anthony’s character drama.  The parallel origin stories of a spooky legend returning to light and an artist reclaiming his own identity merges into an unsettling marriage of dangerous inspiration.

The audience can certainly feel the presence of co-producer/co-writer Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) throughout Candyman, but this is a breakout vehicle for Nia DaCosta’s fruitful career as a filmmaker.  She’s able to find a perfect balance of sincere character-driven stories with graphic horror, while finding mesmerizing ways to step outside the genre’s formulaic conventions and style. 

No other way to put it: Candyman is a sweet success and one of the best horror films of 2021.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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