'Candyman' Review: Horror Sequel Unleashes Bees With Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Interesting challenges turn up in this particular review as you probably don't want to take the chance of saying the movie's title five times, whether or not a computer screen is considered a mirror or repetition can be in written form. 2021's Candyman serves as a sequel to the 1992 film that it shares the name with, now directed and co-written by Nia DaCosta while other credited writers are Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld.
Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a Chicagoan visual artist who ends up learning about the murderous title character (Tony Todd) who, as the legend says, appears after you say the same five times in a row to a mirror like famously in 1992. Anthony's work inspired by the legend is a part of an exhibition at an art gallery in which his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) works, leading the killer to appear nearby Anthony and leaving a trail of bodies behind while he starts to transform physically from a bee sting which often marks the legend's presence.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about that setup and even ultimately the ending is that everything works incredibly well when paired with the earlier film, digging even deeper to themes of gentrification, racial disparity and violence which were interesting anyway. There are few valleys along the way like Colman Domingo's character William who is really there just to tell about the lore to Anthony, their first interaction being forced while the lines are exposition dump combined with puppetry acting it out, which doesn't quite fit the tone set by DaCosta and the actor unfortunately pays the price for it. Abdul-Mateen II though is perfectly in control of his performance which swings from Anthony's cool artist persona all the way to absolute delirium in the movie's last third, as well as from emotional to frightening.
Smaller missteps with puppets, Domingo and reliance on Todd's version of the killer brought up some doubts around the hour mark whether DaCosta was steering her ship in a distinct direction so it'd be easy to miss some confident filmmaking on the way to the end. There's some delightfully nasty body makeup applied to Abdul-Mateen II to manifest his character's transformation, which is always commendable because it not only serves but also enhances the storytelling.
Other bright spots are set designs helmed by set decorator Ryan Watson and production designer Cara Brower, providing sleek but vibrant frames for the camera (you might want to follow yellows and reds in terms of colour). DaCosta and her team also decide to focus on striking choreography and visual tricks instead of jump scares when it comes to horror elements, a brilliant choice because Candyman (second/fourth mention, don't worry) isn't about instant, primal reaction; it's more about the terror that has been here for a long time already and one that characters and audiences need to fight everyday to create change.
Smileys: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, makeup, set decoration, story
Frowneys: Colman Domingo
Not (buzzing for) another bee movie.