Artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has all the trappings of success in his life, including a beautiful and gifted art curator girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), and a luxurious condo in a recently gentrified Chicago neighborhood. However, he is creatively blocked, still going over the same themes and visual motifs he utilized in his breakout solo show years ago. Egged on by his white art patron, Clive (Brian King — and that character name cannot be coincidental), Anthony stumbles across the local legend of the Candyman, the hook-handed ghost of a black man unjustly killed by police, and begins to incorporate the story into his paintings. But the Candyman’s story is older and more complex than he suspects, and his own connection to the specter much more intimate.
Directed by Nia DaCosta, Little Woods (2018), who co-wrote the screenplay with producer Jordan Peel and Win Rosenfeld, Candyman is a deeply interesting and challenging film. It is, of course, a long-lead sequel to Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror classic, which I wrote about here, smartly ignoring the (dreadful, on the whole) two prior sequels without entirely dismissing them. Reading DaCosta’s film only on that level, it’s a very satisfying horror movie. But the real meat of the matter requires digging deeper.