“Say His Name!”
Nia DaCosta’s Candyman starts with a character telling us a scary news story over candlelight. This is fitting because this felt more like news than a film to me, in that it focused solely on the plot and very little on characterization. We get barely any details about the needs or desires of our characters and I couldn’t help but feel emotionally distanced from them throughout the film.
The Direction from DaCosta is probably the standout positive for me here. The film looks spectacular. The camera moves with intention and she shoots reflective surfaces in really intriguing ways. Her direction really elevates the horror sequences with some unique perspectives. I love YaYa Abdul Mateen in everything he has done so far, but he was pretty underwhelming here. To be fair, I don’t think the script provided much in the way of personality for these actors to explore.
The script was the main issue for me, it felt very dense and unfocused. I couldn’t make sense of any character motivations and I was constantly questioning their decisions. I kept wondering why they didn’t raise suspicions or make choices that seemed so obvious to me. This was surprising because Peele was a credited writer, and his film “Get Out” is so well thought out in that regard. What is frustrating is that the concept and the messaging are so strong. A character being the horrific embodiment of generational trauma is super compelling and systemic racism/gentrification mask that trauma much like the festering wound on our protagonists hand. This screenplay just needed a few more passes to make the characters as compelling as the premise.
Candyman brings some fresh direction to a horror classic. I honestly hope they make more, because there is great potential here. It highlights similar themes to the original Candyman, I just feel like this new version is stuck on the other side of the mirror, more interested in reflecting its source material that expanding upon it.