MGM’s Universal logo and roaring lion appear as a mirror image on early titles of candy man† Good find: In the 1990s horror movie series of the same name, anyone crazy enough to say “Candyman” five times in the mirror could summon a mythical black serial killer with a hook instead of a a hand.
Gradually it appears that the new candy man has much more to offer than obvious nods to nostalgia. The mirror image motif in this self-proclaimed “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original is an impetus to deliver a surprising amount of ideas from the first film with a fresh perspective.
Perhaps no surprise to those who saw Jordan Peele on the opening titles, as a co-writer. Smooth directing is in the hands of Nia DaCosta (who, with her atmospheric debut film Little wood made a name for themselves on the film festival circuit three years ago), but it’s Peele who is making his mark here. Where the acclaimed director with those early films across the horror genre raised some tough questions about racial stereotypes (get out) and a black social underclass (we) in the United States, will be candy man in particular on the gentrification of a black district of Chicago once forgotten by all and all. And the horror created by the oppression of (black) city dwellers hanging at the bottom of the social ladder.
There, in Cabrini-Green, the haunting Candyman of the original films took its toll. As the son of a once horribly murdered slave, he was the epitome of white fear of black America – read it film essays just after. But the main character wasn’t much relieved on closer inspection, critics said, while the real main character was also a white college student who investigates the Candyman legend.
In the new candy man the black perspective is in the lead. And that makes for a powerful reinterpretation in this case. In 2019, painter Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) chooses the now largely gentrified Cabrini-Green as the primary location for his next painting project. He is called “the great black hope of the Chicago art scene” by the (white) gatekeepers of the art world. His piece de resistance in a major exhibition: a mirror, including an invitation to say you-know-who five times. The history of cinema as an artistic project – this is one of the many provocative observations of this provocative and intelligent film.
And then all the brakes are released: from police brutality to city politics to black pain through the ages, everything turns out to be traceable to the big black crochet.
Directed by Nia DaCosta
With Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd
91 min., in 75 rooms
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