Film writers suggest that the success of Jordan Peele’s 2017 film, “Get Out,” marked a resurgence of sorts for the Black horror genre — horror being political in nature. Certainly the increased attention to police brutality, especially as it pertains to the Black male population, compels an increase in viable scripts.
This year’s “Candyman,” now playing on the big screen locally, would, it seems, help bolster that thought. The TV series “Lovecraft Country,” a hit from the opening season, and the 2020 film “Antebellum” are also cited, but while “Get Out” screened here, the latter did not.
The original “Candyman” appeared in 1992 and saw two sequels. The urban legend is that of a 19th century artist and son of a slave, who traveled around the country painting portraits of predominantly white clients, until he fell in love with the daughter of one and was viciously murdered by the townsfolk. He is called the Candyman, who has a hook for a right hand and passes out candy to little kids. Legend has it he will appear if you stand in front of a mirror and repeat his name five times.
This 2021 direct sequel to the first film, by young Black director Nia DaCosta, continues the story of the original, including keeping much of the film in the now defunct Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago. Artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen) lives with his girlfriend in a posh apartment far from the old Cabrini-Green neighborhood. But Anthony, who’s had artist’s block, needs to produce for his girlfriend Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), an art gallery director, and his gallerist, who has been urging him to come up with some new work for a gallery opening.
Anthony heads over to Cabrini-Green to snap photos and see if anything resonates. The Candyman legend does, and Anthony’s work inspires fear and apprehension at the gallery opening, and our first whiff of blood. (Did I say “don’t take your kid to this film?”) Brianna arrives at the gallery the next morning and is greeted by two bodies lying in an amazing pool of blood. The gallerist and his girlfriend were apparently clowning around in front of a mirror.
Anthony had been stung by a bee when he first visited Cabrini-Green, and the camera keeps returning to that irritation on his right hand. It seems to be spreading, and the bandage on his hand looks big enough to be hiding a — well, you get the picture.
The director, Da Costa, is the first Black woman to have a film at No. 1 at the domestic box office — such is the press for “Candyman.” After finishing school and working as a TV production assistant, DaCosta wrote the script for “Little Woods,” in 2015, which was one of the 12 projects chosen for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs.
It would eventually become her first feature film, starring Lily James and Tessa Thompson. The film won the Nora Ephron Prize for storytelling at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The director has commented that none of her previous work has yet to pay off her student loans. I’m sure “Candyman” will.