Candyman Review : One of 2021’s most welcome and pleasant (well, not so pleasant) surprises.

Like the original film (itself based on a story by horror maestro Clive Barker) “Candyman” Mach Two is an art house film at its core

If you’re going to do a reboot or remake, build on the previous film — show us or tell us something about the characters or situation that we’ve yet to see or hear, expand on the film’s central plot to take us somewhere we haven’t been before, and most importantly, remember the fans. They’re the reason the studio shelled out coin for the revival.

While many simply press Ctrl+C, pasting the contents in a blank canvass to pass it off as new, there’s been a few recent do-overs that have succeeded by giving us less of a rehashquel and more of a worthwhile companion piece. “TRON Legacy”, “Evil Dead”, “Mad Max Fury Road”, “Jumanji : Welcome to the Jungle” – they’ve all remembered to cater for both the dyed-in-the-wool fan and the newcomer, serving up stories that take us beyond the events of the first movie. An extra bonus anytime cast members from the previous film return to reprise their earlier roles.

The latest addition to the sub-genre has all those things — maybe even more, resulting in one of 2021’s most welcome and pleasant (well, not so pleasant) surprises.

Set in the same area that the block of lodging The Cabrini Towers sat in the original, “Candyman” fixes on Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner (Teyonah Parris), as they move into a unit in the redeveloped housing area. After a chat with a local old-timer, Anthony becomes intrigued in the story of the Candyman, the hooked fiend that was known to terrorise former residents. While using those dark stories to fuel his painting, Anthony ultimately ends up uncovering a little more than his fragile state can handle.

A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman.

“Candyman” plays more like a sequel to the 1992 horror classic than a redo, and uniquely escapes the usual substandard sequel trappings. By further exploring the mythology of the title character (or in this case, ‘characters’) and taking that story to places previously concealed (in either the Bernard Rose-directed original or its two sequels), Nia DaCosta’s film serves as the ultimate love letter to an underrated, and sadly mostly forgotten horror icon – outside of the NECA-collecting crowd –  with paragraphs equally fresh, familiar and oh so frightening.  Clearly conceived by a filmmaking team hellbent on not “just doing something for the sake of doing it”, the 2021 incarnation of the ’90s classic is more than just worthwhile viewing, it’s one of the standout legacy sequels to date.

The screenplay (credited to Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld and DaCosta) may be painted in broad strokes but the execution really elevates the material.  With DaCosta’s thoughtful and inspired direction, DP John Gulserian’s beautifully and imaginatively captured imagery, a pulsating score by Robert A.A Lowe (reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s work), and a compelling performance from leads Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris, “Candyman” will unarguably hook you (sorry!) from the first frame.

Like the original film (itself based on a story by horror maestro Clive Barker) “Candyman” Mach Two is an art house film at its core (no surprise really that the title character is a painter; superbly subtle), encompassing themes nightmarishly dark but also though-provoking partisan, cheekily passing it’s off as a flashy big studio slasher. And while there are the customary random kill scenes you expect from the genre (one sequence, involving a group of school aged teens in a restroom, wouldn’t be out of place in an “I Know What You Did Last Summer” or “Final Destination”), Universal’s “reboot”  largely sticks to that bold, audacious MO DaCosta and producer Jordan Peele likely scrawled down somewhere pre-pitch.

The buzz on “Candyman”? It’s a horror masterpiece.

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