One of the first things that struck me about this movie is how much I immediately loved every member of the main cast and wanted them to make it out alive. Whether it’s the beautiful and talented couples of Anthony and Brianna (an almost unrecognizable Teyonah Parris), Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarret of Misfits fame) and Grady or William from the original film, all grown up and recast, I was rooting for each and every one of them, and surprisingly most of them survive.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be scarred forever by the experience.
Much like the original film, while the scares are here, and they are terrifying, they are not the point. They are, instead, an outward manifestation of the emotional scars of the characters and the communities they inhabit. As we learn throughout the film, our main four: Anthony, siblings Brianna and Troy, and William are still carrying the weight of the pain inflicted on them by society and their families.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
This movie uses sharp, concise, storytelling to retell the story of Daniel Robitaille while linking it, heartbreakingly, to the story of so many black people throughout the history of this country and intimately to the story of Anthony.
We watch as Anthony, an artist of growing fame, still walks the streets of Chicago with the innate awareness of both his blackness and of the police at all times. We see how Brianna’s style and eye for talent never fully trumps her being a woman or being defined by the men in her life, past and present. How Troy is always hyper alert as a gay black man in a way his white boyfriend isn’t. Then there’s William who knows in ways the younger cast never will what it’s like to live while black and has seen true evil of the supernatural kind as one of the few survivors of the original film.
Colman Domingo as William Burke
There’s also the filming of the movie itself: the only way I can describe it is visceral. You feel as if you are in the movie which only makes what’s coming more stressful. I watched this film on edge from the opening credits where Sammy Davis Jr’s song Candyman begins normally and then slowly becomes more and more distorted as we are pulled through the film into the present.
The use of lighting and the circular architecture that shows up over and over subtly shows the unending cycle of black bodies getting murdered just for existing, drawing you in and making you feel the movie.
…Finally there’s the puppetry. This seems to be the year of puppetry being used to effectively move plots along and give exposition and much like in The Green Knight it’s done superbly.
This is one the few horror films that is absolutely gorgeous to look at from start to finish, the love for the original source material showing in every frame.
Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright
If I have one nitpick it’s Anthony’s reaction to his first encounter with the titular character and his lack of common sense regarding his own deteriorating condition throughout the film. When you watch you’ll see why I was yelling at the screen for him to tell someone, anyone, what was going on because by the time he does it’s almost too late.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but this movie was too short. With a brilliant script by director Nia DaCosta and co-writers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, beautiful cinematography and raw, honest performances this movie is definitely a must watch and I plan to see it again.
Four and Half paint brushes out of Five
Thanks to Allied Global Marketing and Universal Pictures for the advanced screener.