Candyman review: a confident and daring feature

yahya abdul-mateen II in candyman
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Nia DaCosta’s Candyman is a worthy companion piece to the original and a film that welcomes repeat viewings – our review.

From director Nia DaCosta comes a “spiritual sequel” to the horror film Candyman (1992), one that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighbourhood where the legend began. This time, a young artist becomes infatuated with the story behind the legend which sets up the story. If you’re not familiar, the basics are: say the word Candyman five times in front of a mirror, and uh-oh.

The film is  a beautiful and stylish looking piece, and DaCosta seamlessly weaves various styles throughout. She happily switches between mainstream horror, teen slasher and animation, confidently utilising visual art to tell new aspects of the story. It’s an assured and daring feature that has thills and chills but enough sensibility to make it more than a one hit wonder. This version of Candyman feels like a film to be studied too, with DaCosta’s inspirations worthy of examination.


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The horror in the film is at its best when it uses practical effects over CGI, and there are moments of effects that make it all feel less natural. Luckily it’s used sparingly, instead treating us to a particularly lovely little bit of skin peeling that will make you shiver at one stage.

A talented ensemble cast lead the film, with all roles big or small being performed with no shortage of commitment. It is however Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Trial Of The Chicago 7) and Teyonah Parris (The Photograph) who steer the ship. Both deliver multi-faceted arcs, Abdul-Mateen II moving from stoic to shellshocked whilst Parris is strong, fragile and pretty much everything in between. She owns the screen and by the end of the film the movie is hers to keep.

Furthermore, Candyman has some of the strongest sound editing in cinema this year, layering multiple sounds to create immersive soundscapes to delight and terror in equal measure.

In short, you’re in safe hands here. DaCosta, along with her screenwriting partners Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld know exactly what they’re doing with the movie and its complex story, knowing when to push a point without overstepping the mark. It’s a film that holds a lot more than first meets the eye and likely will only improve with rewatches. Even first time round I felt there were subtle touches to the narrative and characterisation that I wanted to explore again with a further viewing.

As a Candyman novice, I did have some regret when watching the film that I hadn’t been brave enough to watch the original first. DaCosta’s version is not a straight remake, more a sequel that reframes the legend, at least that’s how it’s billed. It works entirely on its own and is a great watch but those who know the original source material may just get more from this new film, as discovered by the joyful gasp from another cinema goer at a key scene.

Candyman is a film to pay attention to. Nia DaCosta is a filmmaker we should all be paying attention. Just don’t say their name…

The team behind Candyman has made a Social Impact Initiative website which details themes from the film, showcases art from young black artists and delves in to the making of and inspiration for the film. 

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