NEW YORK (CNS) — With his duo of recent films, “Get Out” (2017) and 2019’s “Us,” Jordan Peele has employed the horror genre as a vehicle of social commentary to both critical and popular acclaim.
Now he has co-written the script for the thriller sequel “Candyman” (Universal) with an eye to the same end. Morally, however, this latest project diverges widely from his earlier movies, and the upshot is unsettling.
In crafting a follow-up to the eponymous 1992 movie — one adapted, like its predecessor, from the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker — director Nia DaCosta, who collaborated on the screenplay with Peele and Win Rosenfeld, keeps the focus squarely fixed on her protagonist, Chicago painter Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Though successful in the past, Anthony is currently artistically blocked.
Searching for fresh inspiration, Anthony eventually finds it in his own backyard. Together with his cohabiting girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), Anthony lives in in a gentrified neighborhood that was formerly home to the Windy City’s notorious Cabrini-Green housing project.
Along with other circumstances, a chance encounter with William Burke (Colman Domingo), a veteran resident of the once-deprived area, prompts Anthony to investigate the urban legend concerning the hook-handed murderer of the title that long prevailed among the denizens of Cabrini-Green. His interest in the grim but complicated story soon becomes obsessive.
Even from the start, the nature of this picture’s antecedents makes the harnessing of a blood-soaked slasher flick for the purposes of satire feel like an unequal — and therefore awkward — yoking. By the time of its conclusion, however, “Candyman” has degenerated into a fantasy of racial revenge wholly at odds with Gospel values.
To have a rampaging killer unleashed on the fictional representatives of real-life injustice not only appeals to the audience’s basest instincts. It also represents an unhelpful pseudo-solution to problems that require sensitive and thoughtful assessment.
Thus, unlike Peele’s earlier work cited above, “Candyman” ultimately does little or nothing to provide viewers with insight or to advance dialogue in the real world about the vital topics on which it touches.
The film contains much gory violence, gruesome images, a vengeance theme, cohabitation, a benignly viewed homosexual relationship, drug use, a couple of profanities, about a half-dozen milder oaths, frequent rough language as well as considerable crude and crass talk. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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