CRITICAL / FILM OPINION – The Candyman is back in theaters. Luckily for fans of the character, Nia DaCosta offered a skillful replay of the myth.
Candyman : the myth is back
For those who don’t know the story of Candyman, we have to go back to 1993. At the time, the filmmaker Bernard Rose created a new sacred monster of horror cinema: Candyman. Adapted from the new The Forbidden by Clive Barker, the film tells the story of the investigation of Helen Lyne, a student who decides to write her thesis on local myths and legends. It is while visiting a part of the city that she did not know that she discovers the terrible story of Candyman. The latter, a kind of frightening specter whose origin we do not really know, appears every time someone says his name five times in front of a mirror. At the time, the film Candyman brings back more than $ 25.7 million in box office revenue. Two suites will then see the light of day, the last of which was released in 2000.
Universal Pictures, which has since bought the rights to exploit the character, decided to produce a fourth film Candyman. The studio entrusts the writing of the scenario to the talented Jordan Peele (Get out, Us), which offers the realization of this new version to Nia DaCosta. This young 31-year-old filmmaker thus signs his second feature film after Little woods, released in 2020. In front of the camera, it is the actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who succeeds the great Tony Todd.
An extremely skillful replay of the first film
Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta had the intelligence not to offer the public a simple reboot of the license. Fans of horror cinema are more demanding than you might think. And Candyman version 2021 does not take its spectators for fools. Far from there ! Indeed, the duo chose to opt for a delicious mix between remake and indirect sequel to the first film. The story is different, but does not obscure the events of the first part. Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta use Bertrand Rose’s story to solidify their own story, their own horrific springs, and above all the legitimacy of their work. The duo modernizes the initial plot, while offering pleasant winks. Candyman, which assumes its identical title, is therefore the direct legacy of the 1993 film.
On the aesthetic side, Nia DaCosta goes all out. The filmmaker offers a superb classy photography, which offers some surprising and stunning shots. The director knows how to play with her camera, and imposes a precise, icy staging, without fuss or parasitic visual element. It is sober, fluid, cold, clean and often very beautiful. Nia DaCosta has a desire to keep things simple, to return to a horror cinema without scream, without jump-scare, without noise, without bombastic music, where everything is deliberately silent, throbbing, disturbing by the atmosphere rather than by the bluff. We must add to all this an impressive design concerning the Candyman, who returns more imposing than ever. Its visual and sound design is a great upgrade.
A smart social double reading
Likewise, Nia DaCosta uses the imaginary of Candyman to approach very current social and racial themes. Like Jordan Peele before her she uses horror as a denouncing element of a society that stigmatizes the African-American community, whether through police violence or the lack of artistic and social consideration. She also approaches the notions of paranoia, permanent pressure, pressure from the African-American heritage with a certain lucidity. An approach materialized with creativity through identity and mirrors. It features a protagonist who is looking for himself, and who is looking for his place between his heritage and the society in which he operates. And it materializes all this by the reflection. Nia DaCosta thus creates a skilful reinterpretation of the concept of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
We will simply regret a conclusion which lacks surprise, and which runs a little empty. Blame it on a rather vague outcome, whether in his writing or in his sequence, and which clashes with the precision of the rest of the film. Likewise, the work sometimes lacks impact, in any case genuinely terrifying horrifying springs. But overall, this is undoubtedly the best version of Candyman.
Candyman by Nia DaCosta, released on September 29, 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.