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WHAT'S ON: Candyman — more than just a horror film

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A struggling artist delves deep into an urban legend that ends up consuming him and leading him into a world of unimaginable darkness. Digital editor Dan Jensen finds out why this horror sequel is an important message that needs to be heard.

★★★★☆

CANDYMAN is a direct sequel to the 1992 film Candyman and ignores the previous sequels the same way that Halloween (2018) was a sequel to Halloween (1978). But don’t worry, that’s where the confusion ends.

This new instalment is directed by Nia DaCosta, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Jordan Peele (writer/director of Us and Get Out, again breaking away from his comedy roots into the horror genre he loves) and Win Rosenfeld.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman) stars as the adult version of Anthony, the infant from the first film, who is now an artist struggling to find inspiration. He learns of the Candyman urban legend and explores it in depth, but discovers that he is destined to become a bigger part of it than he ever wanted.

If you’ve never seen the original horror classic, you’ll be fine with this new chapter as it does a great job of bringing you up to speed with what happened throughout the narrative. But be warned: this isn't your average horror film and is going to give you a lot to think about.

Aside from most of the key creators being Black artists, the cast also includes Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk, Wandavision) in the female lead along with several other actors who excel under DaCosta’s brilliant directing. The characters are interesting people who are easy to get invested in and the tragedy of Anthony’s descent into darkness is a compelling one.

Visually, Candyman is an absolute treat for the eyes. Aside from some terrific cinematography and a colour palette that enhances the sinister tone of the story, the film also features flashbacks played out with silhouettes of paper puppets and as a creative choice on DaCosta’s part, it works to stunning perfection. It’s always refreshing when directors find new and interesting ways to tell a story and this is up there with the best.

The score by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe is another standout in the film, being big, bold and unsettling. Candyman never strays from its bleak, menacing tone and does a fine job in making the viewer feel something, achieved successfully by the direction, the writing and the excellent production design.

One could find enjoyment in the film on its surface, as a contemporary horror tale that features some chilling moments (thankfully, no cheap jump scares) and a bit of viscera for gore fans without being excessive. But Candyman goes way deeper than that and is an expression of frustration and anger by voices who are trying to be heard in the Black Lives Matter era. There is a motif of mirrors throughout the story which is highly appropriate as the film holds a mirror up to society and forces us to take a look.

Themes of gentrification, social oppression, class warfare, police brutality — it’s all here and it’s in your face. The film is both challenging and confronting at times. And while there are moments where the subtext feels a bit overpowering, it’s important to remember that this is a message from people trying to make the world understand how they are feeling right now. It’s not often that an audience will feel such an intimate connection to those who created a film, but in the case of Candyman, you almost feel as though DaCosta and Peele are physically present.

It’s impossible to criticise the heaviness of the film’s themes since their sole purpose is to make you think, presented by people who have something important to say. Whereas some films rely on symbolism and metaphor, Candyman tells you straight up how things are in the world today.

There are a few moments where Anthony’s transformation feels a bit disjointed, like when a bee sting gradually transforms his hand into the worst case of dermatitis in history but no one comments on it, including his own girlfriend. And there are a few character decisions that feel a bit questionable. But overall, this is most definitely a film that will leave you thinking and talking about it for a long time. It’s a great achievement by a group of voices who need to be heard and one of the more important films you’ll see this year.

Candyman is now showing in cinemas everywhere.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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