The multi-talented Jordan Peele is back with another great horror film, a sequel to the 1992 film of the same name. Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project is the setting for both films, though the area has gentrified following the tear down of the failed low-income housing experiment in 2011. Now we find loft-dwelling affluent residents who are unaware of the legend that grew out of racist violence in the past.
Those of us who grew up in Chicago will appreciate the locations used in Candyman. And in the 1970s, if you ever wandered the wrong direction from Butch McGuire’s tavern, you quickly found you had left one of the nicest areas in the city and arrived in one of the worst.
Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an emerging artist living with his socially savvy and successful girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris). Anthony’s quest for a new artistic direction takes him down a rabbit hole of local legend, where he inadvertently summons forth a mirror-dwelling monster and, in a conversation with his mother, discovers the truth about his own past. Of note is that Vanessa Williams plays Anne-Marie McCoy in both films.
Jordan Peele has mastered the horror/suspense genre, breaking out of his predominantly TV niche, as actor, director and writer, with his award winning Get Out in 2017, and the much anticipated Us in 2019. Candymanemploys the same dark cinematography that feels throughout like something is about to happen. The musical score is intense, but not disruptive. Throw in the effective plot device in Candyman – will they say his name five times? – and the edge of your seat finds you to be a frequent visitor.
Peele attempted a reboot of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series that I found somewhat disappointing. Serling’s shoes are impossible to fill, especially as the narrator. The new stories lacked the impact of the originals back when audiences were more easily shocked and surprised. But Peele’s film work is where he’s hit his stride.
Paper shadow puppets are used in Candyman to convey some back story elements, including the history of grad student Helen Lyle, whose role in the first film bridges into the subsequent tale. This is a graphic and bloody ninety minutes worth seeing if you can’t get enough of that. I’m feeling the need for a more uplifting movie, though the Halloween season is directly ahead, and it appears Michael Myers is back with Jamie Lee Curtis once again.
Candyman (2021) runs 1 hour, 31 minutes and is rated R.