Tag Archives: Jordan Peele

‘Candyman’ Review

Another day, another “updated sequel to a classic horror film that ignores the events of previous sequels.”

“Candyman” is a sequel to the 1992 semi-cult classic of the same name, and like 2018’s “Halloween” omits the events of the other (less well-received) sequels. The film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as an artist who becomes obsessed with the urban legend of the Candyman, a ghost who kills anyone who says his name into a mirror five time. Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo also star while Nia DaCosta directs a script she co-wrote with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld.

I recently saw the original “Candyman” film and enjoyed it. I think it is a nice semi-detective story with good performances by Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, even if the rules and powers surrounding the titular boogeyman are a bit unclear. The 2021 film puts a new coat of paint on the franchise, with some good sound design and camerawork elevating the familiar story.

Jordan Peele is arguably one of the most synonymous names with horror films right now alongside James Wan and M. Night Shyamalan, and while he doesn’t direct here this certainly feels like a spiritual relative to his “Get Out” and “Us.” From the unnerving atmosphere to the social and racial commentary, Peele’s influences on Nia DaCosta’s film are clear. The film has a clean look to it (sometimes a detractor in the genre) but DaCosta uses that almost to trick the audience, similar to how the characters discuss how the gentrification of ghettos is a plot against the poor. Cinematographer John Guleserian implements several clever and amusing camera tricks to give us chills or increase the intrigue of a kill, though DaCosta and her crew do not turn things into torture porn like the “Saw” films.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s stock has skyrocketed in recent years, from starring in “Aquaman” to being a darkhorse Oscar contender in last year’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” He isn’t given too-too much heavy work to do here, but how he conveys his character’s growing disconnect with the real world and those around him, as his mind and body literally fall apart due to the Candyman legend, is effectively done. Colman Domingo, who was very fun in this year’s “Zola,” is creepy but charming in his few scenes, too.

The film’s biggest problems are really those of the original, and that lies with the writing. Side characters aren’t fleshed out too much outside the bare-minimum the narrative requires them to be, and the rules surrounding the Candyman are as jumbled as they were in 1992. Why does he kill some instantly and others over time as the plot needs? Unclear. While the first film’s mystery and confusion about his grab-bag of powers were somewhat bonkers and enjoyable, here I found it somewhat distracting from the enjoyment of the finale.

“Candyman” works well as a long-delayed sequel as well a soft reboot, honoring its source material while also introducing the legend to a new generation of moviegoers. This should play well in packed 8pm showings, and acts as a nice calling card for DaCosta and Abdul-Mateen to be players in the genre moving forward. We have been spoiled by the mini horror renaissance in recent years and I think that while this isn’t a game-changer itself, it is still a scary movie with more on its mind than blood and guts, which is always a welcome treat.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Us’ is a Mind-Bending Thrill Ride

Well Jordan Peele was able to beat the mediocre freshman directorial debut cliché, so if anyone can stump the sophomore slump it’s him.

“Us” is the second feature from writer-director Jordan Peele, following his Oscar-winning start with “Get Out” in 2017. It follows a family (Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) as they are targeted by a group of doppelgänger assailants. Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker also star.

When I first saw “Get Out” I found it to be a good-not-great horror film that maybe bit off more than it could chew. Upon six (!) rewatches, however, I have come to realize Peele had just created a multi-layered screenplay with hidden codes and verbal keys and one watch just wasn’t enough to see the actual brilliance. And I’m not saying “Us” is another award-worthy turn from Peele, but I already know I need another viewing to see if my hindsight theories are correct and for what it’s worth, I like it about as much as my first round of “Get Out.”

What people will surely praise here are the performances of Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, who play not only their real human parents but also the doppelgängers. Nyong’o is often quiet and timid as a result of a past trauma but has moments of shouting when pushed to her limits, and as her double conveys suppressed pain. Duke has lots of chances to flex his charisma and almost dry humor, as well as some physical displays as the doppelgänger.

Peele’s script isn’t meant to hold a mirror to society about race like “Get Out” but instead hold a mirror to ourselves and see that our demons are our own worst enemy. The trailer for the film does give away a few early twists but overall Peele is able to keep the falling dominos coming. Much like “Get Out” (not to keep comparing the two) the ending of this film creates a lot of questions and requires more viewings. What time will have to tell is are there plot holes or just another layered craft.

This film is both more “jokey” and scarier than “Get Out,” and sometimes the humor comes at the expense of a tense sequence. A few of the jokes land and act as levity, but more than one scary scene was compromised by a dad joke at the wrong time. There is also one scene with distractingly bad effects; since Nyong’o can’t be in two places at once they seemingly green screened her in and the outline on her figure and the flat background draw the viewer’s attention away.

The more “Us” sits with me in the two hours since the credits rolled, the more I think I like it. It certainly is an original horror film yet again by Peele, who hopefully doesn’t get typecast as “the horror guy” (he spoke how he feared repeating himself in comedy), and I think that while it may be a tad divisive towards audiences it will age better than most horror films. I look forward to seeing it again and hope that Peele’s third film continues his streak of defeating tropes and clichés.

Critic’s Rating: 7/10

Universal Picture