Dir. Nia DaCosta, 2021
2021’s Candyman is maybe the scariest horror movie I’ve seen in a long time – I can’t pinpoint exact terrifying moments, all I can say is that I spent a large portion of it with my hands covering my mouth, scratching at my skin, on edge.
This soft reboot contributes to the slasher canon in a really interesting, complex, and emotional way. It bends in and out of shape of the traditional slasher while bringing in supernatural horror elements. We witness our protagonist, artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), on a downward spiral into madness that puts pressure on his relationship with art museum curator Brianna (Teyonah Parris). Regardless of the distance and horrors that take place between them, the pair are tied together by an unfathomably deep love for each other, as well as an urge to protect one another.
The story here builds superbly, goes from 0 to 100 in a very digestible way. It’s like, okay, set up, set up, OH HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING NOW. Abdul-Mateen II is unwavering in his portrayal of Anthony as he falls to fates cruel scheme, and is matched by Parris’ frustrated, devastated, confused, but ultimately powerful Brianna.
For me, Candyman is almost perfect. There are only a few little things that took me out of the story, and they happened early enough that they didn’t ruin the experience for me. The plot does lean into ‘the chosen one’ ideology a bit, which I am sincerely not a fan of, but it doesn’t linger on this for too long and at least it takes the ending in an interesting direction. However, I do wonder if using ‘the chosen one’ when it did for as long as it did was just a way to build to the ending without knowing how to build to the ending. For how unrelentingly tense the ending was, I can’t be that angry about it.
Candyman makes its scares genuinely terrifying by lingering – it stretches out the moments before and after horrible things, suspending the viewer somewhere awful and confusing and uncomfortable. It deepens these scares by filling its characters with this realness, building up for an emotional climax between its two lead characters. I wouldn’t hesitate to see this movie again, and I’ll happily herald it as the best horror of 2021 that I’ve seen so far.
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