I realize it’s not the best time to be going to the movies gratuitously but I’ve got an itch to sneak back and catch Nia DaCosta’s sequel/relaunch to Bernard Rose’s 1992 masterpiece (yeah, I said it) CANDYMAN again. Ya see, I’m pleased as punch with it and that’s saying a lot because something deep down inside me was kind of giving it a secret cynical side-eye ever since it was announced and I think I’m now beginning to understand why. I unabashedly love the OG, it hits me right in my soul, it brought tears to my eyes and remains one of my favorite film-going experiences of all time. Although the trailers for the reincarnation gave me goosebumps (a usually flawless indicator of quality), I remained worried that the newfangled take would condescend to or blaspheme the original. I’m happy to say my fears were unfounded. In fact, this film, while always offering its own original viewpoint, truly honors and respects the 1992 film I love and its sincere appreciation is what makes it work so well. It’s sad that such an obvious element would be so rare but now that I think of it, every time I’ve seen a sequel in a franchise stumble hard it’s usually because the filmmakers failed to hold its precursors in proper esteem.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, stars as coasting painter Anthony McCoy who finds inspiration that rapidly turns into obsession when he hears the legend of Candyman from his art gallery director girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris)’s brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett: incidentally, as Candyman was originally conceived by a gay man (Clive Barker), it’s nice to see a central gay character like Troy who is more than just cannon fodder). Anthony’s new artwork spreads the legend like a virus and soon foolish people are playing foolish games and winning foolish prizes (that involve plenty of bees and throats slashed with hooks). As it turns out, the Candyman we know and love is just one of many because just as in real life, horrendous acts and atrocities ripple through generations causing waves of suffering until they are properly confronted and addressed. Fittingly, the franchise now works as a cinematic game of urban legend telephone with new dimensions added by each additional storyteller, i.e. Barker conceived him, Rose added the Black heritage and American setting, DaCosta & Peele expanded the universe to allow multitudes of wronged individuals to more acutely mirror the reality of racial injustice.
Imagine a film with all the artistic integrity of an A24 flick (outstanding cinematography, innovative score, a storyline that can be interpreted infinite ways) but without the semi-snooty need to alienate half the audience by moving at the pace of honey dripping off a hook in January. I mean what else can you ask for? I’m still processing it all but I can say overall it was a perfect blend of touching base with the original (an incredibly effective cameo by Vanessa Williams reprising her role, audio recordings and newspaper clippings of Virginia Madsen’s Helen Lyle who is presented with appropriate reverence and spot-on references to Phillip Glass’ classic score) and groundbreaking, mythology boosting, world expanding creative brainstorming that could power an entire cinematic universe.
I can understand not going to the theater right now but trust me, there’s one pull back shot of an asking-for-it, rude art dealer getting just desserts framed inside her window as the building she resides in grows smaller and smaller that I fear may only be fully appreciated on a large screen. Anyway, I’m more than just happy with the results here, I’m profoundly relieved. This is the sequel that Candyman, Helen Lyle and the audience have always deserved and I feel like a great wrong (parts 2 and especially 3) has been corrected and avenged. This sequel says Candyman’s name properly, with honor and respect.