Yahya Abdul Mateen II in Candyman. (Universal Pictures) A remake conceived for the erroneous 1619 Project
They’ve taken the fun out of Candyman. The tall black revenant with a hook for a hand, who had been victimized by slave-era savagery then turned his monstrous bloodlust upon future generations in the 1992 slasher/art film by British director Bernard Rose, now reemerges in a remake that’s billed as a “spiritual sequel.” That means Candyman’s myth — say his name five times while looking in the mirror and he will appear, seeking revenge — is further exaggerated, fantasizing another historical offense to fire up race consciousness.
As directed by Nia DaCosta from a script co-authored by Jordan (Get Out) Peele, Candyman spreads the pall of urban misery unlike the original film’s Nineties liberal consciousness where the scare tactics actually coped with racial memory and made it a cult favorite. Here, the story is based in more skittish black bourgeois art-world elitism. Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the black hipster protagonist, moves into Chicago’s notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects, now a series of gentrified row houses but a site forever haunted by America’s racist past, represented by the monstrous Candyman (Tony Todd reprising his original boogeyman role).
Anthony’s paper cut-out artwork proclaims his hypersensitivity in the style of celebrated race-baiter Kara Walker. Anthony’s depictions of police violence indicate fashionable awareness. (His neighbor Colman Domingo tells him “The police come around; that’s when I saw the true face of fear.”) Hip black artists seem to have no inner lives; caught up in superficial activism, today’s black artistes resign themselves to self-exploitation as a way of seeking reparations, fame, and acclaim. This “art” subtext vies with the film’s tabloid sensationalism, promoting black victimization itself as a form of art. (Suggesting that up-to-date attitudes about racial politics might be self-destructive is DaCosta’s only insight.)
Abdul-Mateen personifies the perfect cluelessness of BLM Millennials — he’s primarily a victim of fake news and the 1619 Project. His “collective memory” is shallow, indifferent to the varied disgraces of public housing and ignorant of historical specifics, such as Chicago
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