Chicago's history comes back to haunt us in 'Candyman'

Entertainment

Chicago Tribune 25 August, 2021 - 12:00pm 9 views

How many times do you say Candyman?

In Day of the Dead, the lynch mob chants "Candyman" five times before he dies. wikipedia.orgCandyman (character)

The upcoming season of the FX series follows the impeachment of Clinton (played by Clive Owen) and the intense scrutiny the then-24-year-old Lewinsky (played by Beanie Feldstein) faced after the public found out about her 18-month-long affair with him.

The season was officially greenlit by FX in 2019, with Lewinsky signed on as a producer.

The 10-part season also depicts some of the events leading up to the impeachment of the president, including a moment from November 1995 when Lewinsky reportedly flashed her thong straps at Clinton while the two were attending a social event at the White House. 

Showrunner and writer Sarah Burgess told The Hollywood Reporter in a new feature about the show published on Wednesday that she was hesitant to include the infamous thong-flashing scene in "Impeachment" because she was nervous about "retraumatizing Monica."

Lewinsky, however, disagreed and asked Burgess to keep the scene in the script, arguing that Lewinsky would ultimately get blamed for the omission if the crucial interaction between Clinton and the former White House intern wasn't shown on screen.

"Listen, I would've loved to have been really selfish and said, 'That's great that you guys think we don't have to show that, fantastic,' but I'm incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story," Lewinsky told THR.

Lewinsky continued that she believes she "shouldn't get a pass" because she's a producer on the show. She added that leaving out the thong-flashing scene would be "unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable" to criticism.

Lewinsky also said that "it's really hard" watching Feldstein, Owen, and other "American Crime Story" actors reenact her affair with Clinton and his subsequent impeachment. During production, a therapist kept her company over Zoom as she gave notes and feedback on scripts so she didn't feel completely alone. 

At a virtual Television Critics Association panel held on Friday, Feldstein separately explained that Burgess and executive producer Brad Simpson had Lewinsky review the script for each episode. Once Lewinsky had given them her "notes and feedback," Simpson and Burgess brought the scripts to Feldstein.

"When I received the scripts, I knew that every word that I was saying was approved and had been to Monica first," Feldstein said about the second episode.

She added: "I was sure that everything in there was something that she felt comfortable with, she felt was real to her life and felt represented her."

"Impeachment: American Crime Story" premieres September 7 on FX.

Read full article at Chicago Tribune

Nia DaCosta "Candyman" Interview

FOX4 News Kansas City 25 August, 2021 - 09:20pm

Back when the first trailer dropped for the Jordan Peele–produced “reimagining” of Candyman in February 2020, we had already been hearing about it for more than a year. Then, something even scarier happened, and it was put on hold until now. Today, the final trailer for Candyman dropped, but you have to say the magic words. On IDareYou.CandymanMovie.com, saying “Candyman” five times will unlock the trailer. But for those of us who were scared our thoughts would accidentally summon Bloody Mary as kids, there’s also the official trailer above. We see a few iconic touch points that fans will recognize from Candyman movies of yore: the long hook coming out of the titular character’s bloody arm stump, a fair amount of bees (though we hope for even more bees in the feature), Virginia Madsen (who starred in the 1992 original), and even what looks to be a reflection of Tony Todd in a mirrored elevator as star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II summons the titular evil. There are also the artistic flourishes recognizable from previous Monkeypaw movies Us and Get Out, like the claustrophobic tight close-ups, the sound of screeching strings, and the occasional peppering in of humor from the supporting cast.

Peele, who also co-wrote the script, and director Nia DaCosta introduced the first trailer to a small sampling of journalists a day before it went wide online, with DaCosta fielding a few questions after the preview. “There’s an ArcLight [movie theater] really close to where Cabrini-Green used to be. There’s a lot of development in the area because Cabrini has been torn down,” said DaCosta. “So, what we do in our film is talk about the ghosts that are left behind because of gentrification.”

Scour the new trailer for hints and Easter eggs and wait for it to hit theaters on August 27.

How you can help organizations in California working to resettle Afghan refugees

USA TODAY Entertainment 25 August, 2021 - 07:04pm

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for 20 years, so established organizations in California and around the U.S. exist to provide support to refugees. Right now, as tens of thousands of people are fleeing Afghanistan, there’s an increased and urgent need for additional aid.

When Afghan refugees make it past the first hurdle of leaving their home, they’re met with their second challenge of rebuilding their lives in the United States.

This is where you might come in. Organizations based in California and international organizations that have offices in Los Angeles are looking for volunteers, donated supplies and monetary donations for newly arriving Afghan refugees.

What it does: The Los Angeles-based organization relies on crowdsourcing and social media to connect people with a new refugee family whose needs might not be entirely met by the organizations that sponsor them. Miry’s List supports families with temporary housing, emergency supplies, rides to appointments and more. The organization works with new arrival families all over the U.S.; 80% of the Afghan families it has worked with resettled in California.

How you can help: When a newly arrived refugee family is in their first home, apartment or motel room, Miry’s List staff will meet them and create a prioritized list of supplies. A volunteer compiles the wish list online to share with their network, ensures the family’s list needs are met and adds new items as needed. You can help by purchasing an item on the list or volunteering as a list-maker.

Miry’s List is also looking for volunteers who can offer services like tutoring, translating, fundraising, providing transportation for newly settled families and writing welcome letters. Learn more about available volunteer opportunities and how to get involved here.

The organization is looking for donated items such as toiletries, baby rash cream, baby wipes, small home tool kits, infant and children’s acetaminophen, new infant and children’s clothing, art supplies, socks for children and adults, first aid kits, and English to Farsi dictionaries. If you would like to contribute to the welcome kits, email welcome@miryslist.org.

Taliban fighters rough up two journalists, then seek to make amends by offering water and a sports drink.

What it does: International Rescue Committee has been providing humanitarian aid and relief in Afghanistan since 1988. It has offices in Northern California, Los Angeles and San Diego. Stanford Prescott, the network communications officer for the organization, said all of the offices are currently serving recently arrived Afghan refugees and Afghans with special immigrant visas. The Los Angeles office has welcomed more than 90 Afghan refugees in recent months and anticipates many more.

How you can help: It’s looking for donations of household and infant items directly through the regional office’s Amazon and Target wish lists.

If you have an empty room in your home that can be used for emergency temporary housing, the International Rescue Committee’s partner Airbnb’s Open Homes Program allows you to host an individual or family in need. If you’re a landlord willing to rent to recently arrived refugees, you can volunteer by contacting carly.boos@rescue.org.

Afghanistan’s rich cultural legacies are under siege. It’s time for Western arts organizations to step up to support them.

What it does: The university’s Human Rights Center, in partnership with San Jose State’s Human Rights Institute and the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Assn., created a crowdfunding campaign with the initial goal of providing immediate support for a leading women’s rights activist and journalist with five small children. The campaign’s goals were surpassed, so new donations will be used to support other Afghan refugees.

The university and its partners are also working to quickly secure housing placement for a law school dean and, with Scholars at Risk — an international network organization that supports academic freedom — bring others to the university to secure housing in the Bay Area.

How you can help: The center is accepting donations to its campaign until Friday in an effort to reach its goal of $150,000.

It’s also looking for people to volunteer if they can provide translation services, a room in their home for temporary emergency housing or other resources. You can contact the university’s Human Rights Center by filling out its online form.

In Kabul’s bazaars, sales of the head-to-toe covering temporarily increased after Taliban takeover. But new rulers’ decrees aren’t entirely clear.

What it does: Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay offers a resettlement program that has long focused on refugees who have experienced persecution based on their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of refugees it works with are Afghans who served as translators or provided support services for U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.

Fouzia Azizi, the director of refugee services, said Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay has welcomed almost four dozen people who were evacuated by the U.S. military before the Taliban took over Kabul and anticipate 41 more this week.

The organization has accepted the cases of 33 individuals whose flights were canceled and are now waiting for updated arrival dates.

How you can help: In order to help arriving refugees, volunteers are put into groups of four to six members that assist case managers with airport pickups, signing up refugees for social services benefits, helping register children for school, providing English as a second language support and other related needs. To sign up for volunteer opportunities, fill out JFCS East Bay’s online Community Sponsorship form. Volunteers in each group must have a car, have weekday and daytime availability and commit to a minimum period of three to six months of volunteering.

The organization is also accepting monetary donations or asking you to consider purchasing an item from this Amazon wish list that is shipped to its Concord office and put directly in the hands of refugees.

U.S. citizens who want to leave Afghanistan will be able to do so, even after the Aug. 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, Blinken says

For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.

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Candyman Is a Soulless, Didactic Reimagining

Vulture 25 August, 2021 - 12:17pm

The mirror is an invitation for horror and transformation, potential all mirrors carry. “Candyman,” she says between kisses, speaking the name of an urban legend, bringing it into reality. She repeats the name, the invocation, this spell, a total of five times. It’s then that a figure can be glimpsed in the corner of the mirror. A hulking Black man with a hook for a hand and features that remain in shadow. With a single stroke, seen only in the glass and not in the flesh, this supernatural figure slits the woman’s throat. “Is this real?” her confused partner heaves as he holds onto her body, blood springing from her jugular in a swift arc. He tries to escape the same fate, at the hand of a killer whose visage ripples across reflective surfaces. There’s slit throats, concussed heads, ripped tendons, and copious amounts of blood in the scene, yet it fails to pierce the skin of the viewer. The timing is off. The gore is too deliberately placed to carry the fury necessary. There is no tension, no artistry, no silken grace nor grimy texture to be found. It’s glossy to the point of being featureless. Like the film it’s housed in, this scene glides over intriguing ideas — the white desire born from witnessing Black suffering — but never grapples with the full weight of them.

It’s hard to parse exactly what went so wrong without knowing details about the production of Candyman, the Nia DaCosta–helmed and Jordan Peele–co-written continuance/reimagining of the 1992 film of the same name. The trailers and marketing held so much promise, the tagline “Say His Name” evoking history and communal fury. (We said “Say her name” about Breonna Taylor before her image appeared on glossy magazine covers, fuel for a capitalist system that betrayed her and her memory.) But as the art-gallery scene demonstrates, this Candyman misunderstands the allure of the original and has nothing meaningful to say about the contemporary ideas it observes with all the scrutiny of someone rushing through a Starbucks order on their way to work. Candyman is the most disappointing film of the year so far, limning not only the artistic failures of the individuals who ushered it to life, but the artistic failures of an entire industry that seeks to commodify Blackness to embolden its bottom line.

The ’92 Candyman, written and directed by Bernard Rose, is an unnerving, sometimes outright frightening masterwork. Based on a story by Clive Barker, who also is responsible for the source material of the Hellraiser films, the film effortlessly blends eroticism with the macabre. While Virginia Madsen plays the lead, an ingratiating, ambitious graduate student Helen Lyle, it’s Tony Todd as the titular villain that proves to be a crucial reason for why the film endures. Yes, its interrogation of Chicago’s history with gentrification remains vital and fascinating. Yes, the kills are well-paced and evocative. Yes, the production design is dense and sensual. But Todd’s magnetic performance beckons and beguiles. His Candyman, while brutal, is also seductive. He doesn’t so much say Helen’s name but purrs it, drawing out vowels and consonants until they have a music of their own. He glides as he walks. His gaze is direct. He isn’t a simple slasher or wisecracking murderer — he’s an emblem of all that America loves to forget: the blood and bodies necessary to keep the lie of the American dream alive.

But there’s also a contradiction to this Candyman. He gets his power from the perpetuation of his legend, which requires fresh kills. Yet why would the vengeful spirit of a Black man — Daniel Robitaille, a painter and son of a slave, who fell in love and got a white woman pregnant, and who was then beaten and tortured, his hand sawn off, slathered in honey, stung by bees, and set on fire, all on the land that would become Chicago’s infamous Cabrini–Green projects — choose to terrorize Black people so viciously? Maybe he’s an equal-opportunity killer, but there’s something about this logic that’s always snagged me. DaCosta, Peele, and their collaborators seemingly sought to iron out this contradiction. 2021’s Candyman is not just the spirit of Todd’s Daniel Robitaille but of an entire legion of Black men killed viciously by white, state violence, who act as vengeful spirits more keen to harm white folks than the Black folks whose land their spirits are now tied to. (The film contradicts its own logic, though, when one of the Candymen kills a dark-skinned Black girl in flashback.) Instead of a suave yet brutalizing sole figure haunting your every moment, these Candymen are nowhere to be seen in the flesh, only in the mirrors used to summon them, perhaps a spiritual echo to Ralph Ellison’s work. Something is lost without a figure like Todd, but the ideas here have merit, if only the artists involved had an inkling for what to do with them.

Anthony McCoy (a surprisingly deadened Abdul-Mateen) is the picture of what has been largely marketed as Black excellence. He lives in the slick high-rises that have replaced Cabrini–Green’s projects with his assimilationist art-curator girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris). He’s hungry and desperate for new material. He was once considered the “great Black hope of the Chicago art scene,” which he’d like to remain. When he’s told the legend of Helen Lyle — rendered here in cutouts and shadow play that feel more inventive than anything else in the film, but too haphazardly deployed to fully capture the viewer — by Brianna’s brother, Troy (a grating Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), Anthony finds himself tumbling down a dark path. He may be an artist, but his story is clearly mapped onto Helen’s. He moves like her — an interloper and anthropologist picking over the remains of other people’s lives. Although the only actual poor character you hear from in this story rooted in the Cabrini–Green community is William (a jittery, arch Colman Domingo), whose younger self appears in flashbacks at different points of the film.

After getting a bee sting at the site of the Cabrini–Green projects, it isn’t just Anthony’s mind that unravels as he descends further and further into the folklore of Candyman, but his body too. The sting becomes a wound that oozes and crackles, traveling up his arm until he’s covered in stings. If you know the original, it becomes clear long before any “twist” that this film isn’t a reimagining so much as a remixed continuation. Sometimes the film dips into Brianna’s point of view as she grapples with the discovery of bodies at the art gallery, reminding her of the trauma of witnessing her schizophrenic father’s death by suicide (a detail that feels copy-and-pasted from an earlier version of the script rather than fully integrated into this story). But such a scattered approach is hemmed in by Parris herself — a stunning woman but a middling actress that DaCosta fails to shape well. (Parris will be directed by DaCosta again in the behemoth Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels, which is only the director’s third film.)

Candyman lacks energy and inventiveness. Its screenplay is remarkably didactic, showing that it was intended neither for an audience of diehard horror fans nor Black people. Every intriguing plot point — the Candymen, the Invisible Man ethos — is squandered by pedestrian direction, facile thought, and a craven commodification of Blackness. In trying to reckon with the contradictions of the ’92 film, as well as carve out their own work, DaCosta and her collaborators have created a misfire that can’t make its tangle of politics — about gentrification, the Black body (horror), racism, white desire — feel either relevant or provocative. When Blackness is whittled down, this is the kind of poor cultural product we are sold.

Candyman tells you loudly from the jump what it thinks you should hear. “White people built the ghetto then erased it when they realized they built the ghetto,” Brianna says, with all the finesse of a first rehearsal. At another point, William tells Anthony, “They love what we make but not us.” Such lines aren’t only dry as hell, they’re a tell. The film can’t run from the fact that it was created with a white audience in mind, full of explanations and blunt language for things Black people already understand on a molecular level.

There’s another strange line, uttered by a white art critic cruelly and stereotypically judging Anthony’s work at the gallery. “It speaks in didactic media clichés about the ambient violence of the gentrification cycle,” she says. “Your kind are the real pioneers of that cycle.” When Anthony asks who the hell she’s referring to, she counters, “Artists.” It’d be one thing if DaCosta left that commentary there, but it becomes a through-line where Black gentrifiers are equated with white ones, as if they hold the same sort of power to alter their surroundings and flatten the culture of a place and community. In making Anthony’s story so much like Helen’s — to the point that he almost retraces her journey, even listening to her old recordings about the communal need for folklore to explain the violence of their lives in Cabrini–Green — the film treads queasy territory. Helen was a tourist and Anthony is positioned as one too, even though by the end of the film it is evident he isn’t that so much as an unaware prodigal son returning home. This is the molten core of the film — confused politics intertwined with juvenile artistry in which a meaningful conversation about gentrification is imagined without the prominent voices of those harmed by it.

Horror has always been political, best when it lets images and characters and sonic dimensions speak to a certain work’s integral concerns. But Candyman moves in a way that speaks to this moment in both Black filmmaking in Hollywood and the so-called “prestige” horror boom, in which its creators can’t find a political message they won’t hit you over the head with until you’re as bloody and begging for release as the characters onscreen. If the original heaves and breathes with ripe contradictions and precise aesthetic compositions, DaCosta’s sputters and fizzles.

And how in the hell do you make Yahya Abdul-Mateen II uncharismatic? I’ve complained about the lack of potent talent in the younger crop of actors on the come up in Hollywood before, most of whom have graduated from the Go Girl Give Us Nothing School of Acting. Abdul-Mateen isn’t one of them. He’s a force, and not just because he is traffic-stopping fine as hell — a fact the filmmakers realize, granting us a multitude of shots of Yahya rocking little beyond a pair of boxers. On paper, casting Abdul-Mateen makes a lot of sense. His booming voice, physical presence, and training make him a worthy heir to Todd. But the script and direction fail him repeatedly, leading to a remarkably thinly drawn performance showcasing no interior life, which further hobbles the unearned closing of the film. The film postures as if it wants to critique the ways Black trauma is commodified and made successful in the realm of art, then does the very same thing. When it needs to demonstrate Anthony’s mental unraveling, the film calls upon clichés about mad geniuses. Black people are continuously vexed by inner and outer forces, which makes the braiding together of Black madness and horror written upon a Black man’s body so apt. But in Candyman, madness is prosaic. It’s a spectacle — all tongues lolling, eyes wild — not a lived experience. In Candyman, the filmmakers are interested in the Black body but not the soul and mind that animates it.

Specificity, particularly in a film such as this, isn’t just about a people, but a place. And Chicago is essential to the Candyman story. The image of its downtown skyline juxtaposed with the rot of remaining slums is a visual tic the film relies on but doesn’t rightfully build upon. At one point, a haughty Truman Capote–looking art purveyor dubs the city “provincial,” which wouldn’t be so annoying if it were clear the filmmakers disagreed. Candyman’s Chicago is wiped of the down-home rhythms, vernacular, and stylings that make it distinct. The city is rendered here as nowhere, New York lite — all primarily anonymous skyscrapers and interiors. Like so much in the film, geography is hampered by poor framing, pacing, tension, narrative evolution, and color-palette choices by DaCosta, cinematographer John Guleserian, and editor Catrin Hedström. A film such as this should grab hold of your heart, make your skin prickle, cause you to sit at the edge of your seat in panicked fascination. Instead, it glides over you like water rushing over a passing pebble, leaving little mark at all, save for when the didacticism sets in again.

At this point, we need to have a conversation about Jordan Peele’s creative efforts outside of his direction, which I’m admittedly cool on. Between producing the abominable Twilight Zone refashioning and the sloppy and at times offensive Lovecraft Country, and having a hand in writing Candyman, it’s clear that Peele knows a lot about the genres he’s moving through but lacks the ability to bring them to life with the vigor and talent necessary. For her part, DaCosta did indeed demonstrate a steadiness and emotional curiosity in her 2018 debut film Little Woods. It made me eager to see where she would go. But in Candyman, there’s not a trace of DaCosta’s voice, let alone that of any vibrant artist with a sure perspective. It’s perhaps a result of studios catapulting fresh talent from small independent pictures to bigger IP-related projects, skipping the now-nonexistent mid-budget work where stars were traditionally made and directors honed their vision. Candyman augurs Hollywood’s bleak future and what works it will green-light, especially from Black artists. There’s an added edge to how studios seek to commodify Blackness and, in a marked change from previous decades, how Black directors are hired to do it. Here, our feverish desire for change, encouraged by the uprisings of last year, is sanded off and resold as progress for the price of a movie ticket.

The new Candyman was modernized for the wrong audience

Polygon 25 August, 2021 - 11:01am

It’s cluttered, preachy, and not nearly scary enough

DaCosta’s version opens in 1977, as an echoed, haunting rendition of Sammy Davis Jr.’s signature song, “The Candy Man,” jangles. The camera peers over the Cabrini-Green row houses, the infamous housing projects located auspiciously on the city’s affluent north side. The police are patrolling for a local murderer, a Black man with a hook attached to his arm. He’s been accused of putting razor blades in candy and giving it to children, hurting a young white girl in the process.

The residents, including a young Black boy heading to a basement laundry room, avoid the cops who are patrolling for him. The racial dynamics at play, and the overpoliced location, make the situation ripe for trouble. Similar to Rose’s film, DaCosta uses the racial dynamics of Cabrini-Green to set up a story about white-inflicted racial violence, the ways white folks encroach on Black spaces, and the harm that an overzealous police force and apathetic government can cause to neglected Black people.

After the flashback opening, DaCosta’s Candyman jumps to the present day, where Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a noted visual artist, carries out a chemistry-free relationship with art-gallery director Brianna (Teyonah Parris). Lately, Anthony has been in a creative rut. His previous series of paintings, featuring Black men with nooses draped over their necks and bare chests, is now old news. But then Brianna’s brother (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) tells Anthony the legend of Candyman, in a campfire story that sums up the events of the 1992 film: Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) ventured to Cabrini-Green and kidnapped a Black baby, but died in a bonfire. Anthony, who connects with Black pain on a shallow level, exploiting it for personal fame, decides to make Cabrini-Green his next subject.

This won’t be the only time we hear of Candyman’s legend: How you need only to say his name five times in a mirror to call him, or how his story traces back to the late 1800s, when a lynch mob captured him for fathering a child with a white woman. They cut off his arm, covered him with honey, and unleashed a swarm of bees to kill him. While viewers who haven’t watched the 1992 film will probably need this refresher on its plot, DaCosta’s sequel recounts the events of the prior film no less than three times, making its 90-minute runtime terribly distributed.

Each iteration of the retelling uses the same visual style, with bewitching silhouette images from real-life painter Kara Walker, who makes miniature black cutouts of people to convey the legend. In the beginning, this motif offers a captivating storytelling method, marrying the origin of myths with the idea of shadows on a cave wall. But DaCosta hits that well one too many times, and on each successive deployment, the strategy is less intriguing, mostly because there’s little meaning behind the aesthetic choice. While Walker’s art often interrogates the past, disrupting the romanization of America’s racial fairytale and the idea of a grand melting pot, the redundant retelling blunts the intended depth of her work.

Domingo does some Herculean heavy lifting as William. He’s speaking for this community, and in a sense, almost every African-American urban neighborhood, when he tells McCoy about seeing a Black man wrongly accused of being Candyman, and beaten to death by police. Domingo nearly pulls it off, imbuing an agony and hidden rage within William that isn’t totally fleshed out in this withered script.

DaCosta’s previous film, Little Woods, was lived-in and detailed because she used the rugged landscape as an extension of her characters. In Candyman, Cabrini-Green isn’t as well-leveraged. Viewers who have never been to Chicago may not know the geographical importance of Cabrini-Green: The housing project bordered the Gold Coast, one of the city’s luxe neighborhoods. Barring a brief shot of Chicago’s glittering downtown skyline, which backgrounds the row houses, DaCosta’s film doesn’t work to convey that economic disparity, and why the city desperately wants to gentrify the former projects to make room for more luxury housing.

Today, those row houses are the last remnants of Cabrini-Green — the brick towers shown in Rose’s film were demolished in 2011. Those abandoned homes still hold a foreboding, from the memories of police brutality that scar the landscape, and the generations of Black folks who once dwelled in the complex. But DaCosta’s film doesn’t convey any of that, because she barely filmed in the neighborhood.

The lack of a visual metaphor makes the film’s exploration of gentrification more of an assemblage of nonspecific dialogue. It talks about what gentrification is, and not what it looks like. The same can be said of the movie’s kills, which are less propelled by plot, and more message-driven. There’s plenty of blood-spewing and bone-cracking, but with no sense of the terror lurking in the shadows, or the foreboding behind the walls.

The movie also delves into body horror, while exploring the obsessive sacrifice artists make for their art. After Anthony is stung by a bee, a rash develops on his hand, slowly causing his skin to itch and peel. His burst of neurotic creativity coincides with the deterioration of his body. The practical makeup work here is highly effective and gruesome, as is Abdul-Mateen II’s cowering performance. During this period, McCoy produces a plethora of pieces centering Black death. Much of it is rote, because he’s exploiting Black folks’ shared historical pain in a shallow manner. A white art critic who isn’t impressed with his work sees a different repetition, one about Black artists perpetually crying about gentrification. She’s totemic of an ignorant white-centered critical lens, but DaCosta’s critique of that lens isn’t very interesting, or connected to the overarching narrative.

Like Anthony, DaCosta struggles to craft art that isn’t wholly informed by the past. From Anthony listening to Helen’s audiotapes to other visual motifs — like a hole in the wall behind a mirror — this film is filled with copious references to the prior Candyman entries. But what story does DaCosta want to tell? If this is a movie about the legend of Candyman, then why is he no more than an underutilized boogeyman? If this is about the residents of Cabrini-Green, then why not feature them or the area more heavily? Vanessa Estelle Williams reprises her role from the 1992 film, and considering the rich depth of her backstory — in the first movie, her baby was kidnapped by Candyman — it’s a wonder why this story wasn’t centered on her.

Peele’s own directorial work tends to explore fraught social issues on a subtler level than this, but the other projects he’s backed — Twilight Zone, Lovecraft Country, and Hunters — have been underwhelming because they approach their subjects with suffocating bluntness. DaCosta’s Candyman, a sequel clearly filmed by a director with only a cursory knowledge of Chicago, a lesser understanding of the ways legends haunt us, and an unevenness for looping frights in with social commentary, is bold in its ambition. DaCosta tries to pay tribute to a classic horror film while upping the ante of that film’s social conversations, but she follows in the same disappointing steps of Peele’s other produced projects. She doesn’t have the voice required to approach these issues with depth.

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