Combustible Celluloid
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With: 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, Heidi Grace Engerman, Ireon Roach, Breanna Lind, Tony Todd
Written by: Nia DaCosta, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, based on a story by Clive Barker
Directed by: Nia DaCosta
MPAA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references
Running Time: 91
Date: 08/27/2021

Candyman (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bee Careful

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Neither a reboot nor a direct sequel, Nia DaCosta's Candyman responds to elements from the 1992 cult classic and moves forward into the Black Lives Matter era, with chilling, brilliant results.

In it, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an up-and-coming artist, living with Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), an art curator. At dinner one night, Brianna's brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) tells the story of Candyman, who terrorized the nearby Cabrini Green projects years ago. Inspired, Anthony looks more into the story, hoping to create a new series of artworks. Anthony meets William Burke (Colman Domingo), who grew up in Cabrini Green and had an encounter with the actual Candyman, and learns more. Unfortunately, as Anthony's art is shown to the world, the Candyman legend is re-awakened, with horrific results.

Following up on the promise of her powerful debut Little Woods, director DaCosta — with help from co-writer and co-producer Jordan Peele — follows a bracingly logical path through Clive Barker's original 1985 short story and Bernard Rose's 1992 movie, taking in the "ghetto" setting and the Black monster (played here, as in three other movies, by Tony Todd), and examining them further. In swift strokes, like a passionate paintbrush, DaCosta touches on gentrification, artistic appropriation, and artistic objectivity, in most fascinating ways.

Using silhouette puppets to illustrate flashbacks, and a music score that echoes Philip Glass's 1992 recordings, it asks: are these artists actual creators, or are they merely repeating history? How does location play into the identities of Black residents, especially when that location was designed and built by whites? Can Blacks reclaim their own stories? In one striking subplot, a white art critic attempts to tell Anthony's story, and define his art, through her own experiences.

Yet, in the midst of these and other timely discourses, Candyman manages to be a brutal and powerful horror tale (right from the start, with its mirror-image studio logos), perhaps even surpassing whatever Barker's original story, or any other adaptation, has ever intended or achieved. A final cry to keep telling stories — rather than burying them, as in the Tulsa massacre of 1921 — is an imperative crossover from horror to real life.

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