Before jumping into my review, I would like to first speak out about the slander against bees that takes place in the Candyman movies. A swarm of bees is not aggressive. They’re just looking for a new home. Wasps are aggressive.
Co-written by Jordan Peele, Candyman is more of a sequel than a remake of the 1992 movie of the same name and takes place in the now-gentrified Cabrini Green Projects of Chicago. An up-and-coming artist, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and his art dealer girlfriend, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), become intrigued by the legend of the Candyman (Michael Hargrove), who once stalked the property where they now live. As Anthony pursues an art project about the Candyman, he accidentally summons the legend himself, with serious consequences.
As with other Jordan Peele projects, Candyman reflects a love of the horror genre and balances inventiveness with just the right amount of camp. The original Candyman movie is terribly corny, even for an early-90s horror flick, but this new iteration takes the lore and reimagines it with artistic flourishes. Although the strange shadow puppets used for exposition tie in with the story’s focus on art and artists, adding a creepy flourish, the more striking images come from the use of mirrors and windows. Director Nia DaCosta clearly had fun placing Candyman in the deep background. The effect is not so much a jumpscare, but a delightful, creepy surprise. Another scene shows a murder taking place as the camera silently zooms far out from an apartment window. It’s subtle but memorable.
Ultimately, I am not convinced that using the Candyman as the embodiment of a plethora of racial violence totally makes sense, but the acting and cinematography in this horror movie are good enough that I forgive its grand scope. For Jordan Peele and slasher fans, Candyman is a must-see this spooky season.
Candyman was written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta, who also directed. It runs 91 minutes and is rated R.
Streaming on Netflix, Midnight Mass, the latest from Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan, is a masterpiece about the perils of fanaticism. In the story, sleepy Crockett Island gets a shakeup when Father Paul Hill (Hamish Linklater) arrives to fill in for their beloved, very elderly pastor. When seemingly miraculous things begin to happen, the island’s struggling community flourishes, but the force behind the revival is not as it seems.
Midnight Mass has been in the works for years and the time Flanagan spent with the project on the back burner has paid off in a beautiful, haunting story about addiction, faith, community, and redemption. As Father Paul, Hamish Linklater roots the story in a genuinely good priest who makes some terrible mistakes. So often, stories about religious zeal use hyperbole and easy tropes about the religious, but Father Paul and Linklater’s gentle portrayal of him are far more nuanced, making the story both more moving and scarier. In contrast, Samantha Sloyan’s Bev is the embodiment of the ruthless, mean, hypocritical church lady, and hating her creates a needed, if complicated, release.
The rest of the ensemble cast does an admirable job portraying a fading community trying to stay afloat. As Erin, Kate Siegel is captivating. The whole Flynn family, Riley (Zach Gilford), Ed (Henry Thomas), Annie (Kristin Lehman), and Warren (Igby Rigney) serves as a sort of microcosm for the island, with Riley’s loss of faith standing opposed to his parents’ devotion. The struggles they have rebuilding wounded relationships are treated with the tenderness expected of a Flanagan production. Finally, how could I not mention Rahul Kohli’s weary, loveable portrayal of Sheriff Hassan?
The writing in Midnight Mass provides enough intricate details that rewatching the first two episodes only built my appreciation for the series. Flanagan has a tendency to insert nearly-Shakespearan monologues into key moments, and those might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in Midnight Mass, they function to develop the characters as they struggle with issues as intimate as faith, love, and mortality.
For those looking for traditional horror, Midnight Mass will not be especially scary, but the narrative does feature a compelling mystery, the artistic direction is fantastic, and the meditations provided on morality, forgiveness, sacrifice, and wonder are exquisite.
Midnight Mass was created by Mike Flanagan. It runs for seven episodes and is rated TV-MA.