Neither a reboot nor a direct sequel, Nia DaCosta's horror movie responds to elements from the 1992 cult classic and moves forward into the Black Lives Matter era, with chilling, brilliant results. Following up on the promise of her powerful debut Little Woods, DaCosta's Candyman -- with help from co-writer and co-producer Jordan Peele -- follows a bracingly logical path through Clive Barker's original 1985 short story and Bernard Rose's 1992 movie, taking the urban setting and the Black monster (played here, as in three other movies, by Tony Todd) and examining them further. With swift strokes, like an artist passionately wielding a paintbrush, DaCosta touches on gentrification, artistic appropriation, and artistic objectivity in fascinating ways.
Using silhouette puppets to illustrate flashbacks and a musical score that echoes Philip Glass's 1992 recordings, the movie asks: Are these artists actual creators, or are they merely repeating history? How does location play into the identities of Black residents, especially when that location was designed and built by White people? Can Black people reclaim their own stories? In one striking subplot, a White art critic tries to tell Anthony's story and define his art through her own experiences. Yet in the midst of these and other timely discourses, Candyman manages to be a brutal and powerful horror tale (right from the start, with its mirror-image studio logos), perhaps even surpassing whatever Barker's original story, or any other adaptation, has ever intended or achieved. A final cry to keep telling stories -- rather than burying them, as in the Tulsa massacre of 1921 -- is an imperative crossover from horror to real life.