New horror movie Candyman should have had its marketing cut out for it from the get-go (‘cut’ being the optimum word with this being a slasher pic).
Everybody has heard of its title – be it through the song by Sammy Davis Jr or the Willy Wonka version sung by Aubrey Woods (who played the candy store owner in the Chocolate Factory film).
Then there was the 1992 movie of the same name that kinda flew under the radar but still managed to majorly inspire the new Candyman (I’ll get to that inspiration later).
And, of course, there’s the key theme in the film: that if you say the name ‘Candyman’ five times in the mirror, he will appear in real life and murder you. I’ve already mentioned ‘Candyman’ four times in this article and I’m very tempted to get a mirror out – if only for laughs.
Sure enough, the new Candyman flirts wonderfully well with the mirror theme. The very opening of the film sees the production titles appearing backwards, making you wonder if the projectionist (or video player) has got her reel (or clip) running the wrong way around. Topsy-turvy footage of buildings continues in the theme of reflection and opposites, giving me a strange sense of backward vertigo. Ordinarily I get dizzy looking down from a skyscraper to a street, but moving with the camera’s lens through foggy streets from an extreme low angle, things start to get pretty trippy.
I love my psychological thrillers and my horrors in equal measure, and I love it even more when they’re hyper-contextualised – which is very much the case in Candyman.
Considering the absurdist theme, the actors do a pretty good job dealing with the script and storyline. I mean, come on, even as kids we thought apparitions in the mirror were kind of crazy. But this kudos to the actors is for the first two-thirds of the movie alone.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II does a good job in playing a struggling artist whose world is turned upside down (also back to front; left to right… that mirror thing again) and whose work on canvas begins to reflect that darkness. It’s only when the darkness gets extreme that things appear too OTT.
Tony Todd – the actor who played the original Candyman in the 1992 movie – stars once again as Danielle Robitaille, the guy who would eventually become Candyman himself. Todd’s voice is so omnipresent, you ought to recall it from the war film Platoon and in television’s Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Indeed, every time his deep, monotone does the talking, I got a familiar but freakish chill down my spine.
Both the 1992 version of Candyman and the current incarnation are based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden, and follow the narrative of a Chicago student (the former saw the student completing her thesis on urban legends; the latter sees an art student inspired by such urban legend). Both are led to the Candyman: the ghost of the son of an enslaved man who was murdered in the 19th century for his relationship with the daughter of a wealthy white man. Yes, race is integral to the Candyman plot. That said, while 90% of the main cast is black, I not once realised it – only until someone mentioned it as we debriefed after seeing the movie.
That’s the thing about movies with a Jordan Peele connection (he is listed as producer here) – he may turn the tables in regards to ratio of race, but the story is so potent (as fictional as they are), you’re never thinking about race as an issue.
Maybe that’s the magic of Peele; that he injects so much smoke and mirrors into his movies, race becomes a secondary aspect to the thrill of it all. Or, as is the case here, sweets and mirrors.
A fun, pretty scary movie that kind of makes you want another sequel – spiritual or otherwise.
‘Candyman’ is in cinemas now.