Candyman (4 stars)

Candyman

Visually striking and thematically strong horror follow-up that makes up in satire what it lacks in scares

'Black people don't need to be summoning shit,' quips Nathan Stewart-Jarrett's bitchy realtor Troy in this smart, appropriately angry horror sequel which spouts plenty of such sense. It's the fourth film in the Candyman franchise and has close ties to Bernard Rose's unforgettable 1992 original. Although many years have passed both on screen and off, Candyman 2021 plays heavily on the tragic events that unfolded there, and the result is something that should appeal to fans as well as those looking for a slasher with substance.

It's directed by Nia DaCosta (known for her 2018 film Little Woods, which was released here as Crossing The Line) and boasts a screenplay by DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld and Get Out's Jordan Peele, whose savagely satirical, Black-led horrors (see also Us) have revitalised a genre known for its Caucasian protagonists.

Set in Chicago, the film's eerie atmosphere is nicely offset by punchy swipes at police brutality, art world pretension, societal neglect, and the embracing of Black culture but not Black people ('They love what we make, just not us,' explains Colman Domingo's launderette owner, who has a key part to play). It sees an artistically stumped African American painter, Anthony McCoy (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), unearth the shocking past of former housing project Cabrini-Green and with it the titular bogeyman, much to the horror of his successful gallerist partner Brianna (Teyonah Parris).

Candyman takes its lead from its artist protagonist with its stunning imagery and resonant commentary. Cara Brower's production design and John Guleserian's cinematography combine to impressive effect in a film that strikingly, yet often unflatteringly captures the art scene ('I get it. It's the hood, gentrification, etcetera,' remarks a white critic as she dismissively sums up Anthony's work), as well as the obsessive nature of creation, and that has the ability to make the macabre rather majestic – for example, it uses intricately crafted shadow puppets to spookily fill in its backstory.

DaCosta refuses to consistently play by the rules of the genre; there are a couple of conventional slasher set pieces but very few jump scares, which the essential premise of course lends itself to. It does, however, ratchet up a decent amount of tension and is provocative, stimulating and relentlessly unnerving. Ultimately, it's more interested in revealing the real horror behind its story – the legacy of pain, violence and discrimination, as it slowly brushes aside the surface gloss to expose the dark heart of America.

Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 27 August.

Candyman

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 31min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nia DaCosta
  • Written by: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
  • Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd
  • UK release: 27 August 2021

Reboot of the 90s horror franchise. Co-written and produced by Jordan Peele.