Opening 26 Aug 2021
Writing credits: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta, Bernard Rose, Clive Barker
Principal actors: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky
Visual-artist Anthony McCoy’s (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) rising star is stuttering, causing Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), gallery director-cum-girlfriend, to prevail on him to create something new-style. Then Brianna’s brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) inadvertently titillates Anthony’s curiosity telling a ghost story involving their neighborhood before gentrification; the story happened decades ago when the projects ghettoized Cabrini-Green. Sorely needing an inspiration, Anthony investigates the site, meeting old-timer John Burke (Colman Domingo) who, without flinching, fills in details about Sherman (Michael Hargrove), the police, and the legend, “That’s the day I saw the true face of fear.” At the gallery later, though, a run-around from an art critic about his new show precedes Anthony’s run-in with gallery owner Clive (Brian King). Unbelievably, some people are aroused by vindictive, one-armed Candyman’s (Tony Todd) myth enough to test it. In parallel story telling and Flashbacks to when Burke was a boy, it emerges there is more to this grisly urban legend than initially imagined, just as Anthony is up to his elbow questioning his very sanity.
Nia DaCosta directs this version of Candyman’s 1992 story, whereby Bernard Rose Americanized The Forbidden, Clive Barker’s short story set in Liverpool, England projects. Rose added an interracial love story for kindling, and substituted Chicago’s hardcore Cabrini-Green public-housing development; it spawned sequels in 1995 and 1999. DaCosta's account is from Jordan Peele’s updated screenplay (he maintains the 1992 original’s racist stereotyping, etc.) that is steeped in racial justice and healing with slasher infusions, thereby causing an uneasy discombobulation in the plot that is flummoxing for the uninitiated. The cast do a fine job, John Guleserian filmed on location in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green, although the towers are now gone. Catrin Hedström’s short-and-sweet editing steers Robert A.A. Lowe’s music and Manual Cinema’s detailed puppetry animation to massage our imaginations. So, which story is it, or, is it about taking the dare? (Marinell Haegelin)