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Candyman

‘Candyman’ is based on the short story by English horror novelist Clive Barker, who also found success with his ‘Hellraiser’ series. The concept is derived from a ghoulish urban legend – a horrific folklore tale passed around as being true. Such urban legends have spun-off multiple films daring viewers to believe their terrible stories no matter how outlandish. ‘Candyman’ has been more successful than most, with this instalment being the fourth outing. A direct sequel to the 1992 original and shows Barker’s skills in creating gritty reality amidst ghastly visions in all its deadly glory.

Visual artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) live in Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighbourhood. Looking for a way to kick-start his stalled artistic career, Anthony hears of the Candyman urban legend. Little does he know of the horrors soon to be unleashed when he uses it as a basis for his new set of paintings. When his name is said five times, Candyman’s (Tony Todd) vengeful spirit resurfaces, eager to wreak havoc on a new batch of unwilling victims.

The biggest thing people want to know is – is ‘Candyman’ scary? The answer is mostly yes which is due to great performances and strong direction. The original film is used as a jumping off point to establish a new mythology whilst at the same time referencing the first movie as its own type of urban legend. Directing from her co-written script, Nia DaCosta shows a lot of visual flair as well as creating engaging characters you care about. Although the story is played out in a somewhat low-key manner allowing it to gradually creep up on you in a way that would make Candyman proud.

‘Candyman’ has a fine ensemble who are effectively used. Abdul-Mateen adds much gravitas to Anthony, a character battling his own demons as well as Candyman’s. Tony Todd clearly enjoys returning to his horrific role, giving Candyman a brooding menace. The screenplay does lose its way towards the end, making it difficult to follow exactly what’s happening. The striking production design and intense music score paper over some of these cracks in style, although there’s a sense the story needed more re-writing for it to be truly compelling.

There’s no need to have not seen the original film to follow ‘Candyman’. Enough background is given to know the set up even if the film overall doesn’t quite pay off as it should. It more than makes up for any flaws with its unsettling atmosphere and creativity. Those who like a different type of horror movie should like it, although after viewing his latest outing saying the title character’s name multiple times wouldn’t be wise.

Rating out of 10: 7

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Reminiscence

There’s a sense of irony whilst watching ‘Reminiscence’. Written and directed by Lisa Joy, this sci-fi caper is reminiscent of other films. Copying what’s been successful isn’t a crime, especially in Hollywood. The way old stories are told is a mark of a good writer. A blend of ‘Bladerunner’ and 1940’s film noir detective movies, ‘Reminiscence’ doesn’t have much to call its own. Viewing can be a comforting experience, if only to remember better works than this.

In the distant future, Private Investigator Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is looking for clues. His detecting methods are sought after due to his ability to enter people’s minds. Able to explore the past, his skills are called upon by mysterious new client Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). A simple case quickly turns into danger when Mae suddenly vanishes. Determined to find her, Nick is chased by shadowy forces hell-bent on preventing him in unearthing a conspiracy threatening those around him.

Initially ‘Reminiscence’ has much going for it. A compelling mystery, interesting concept and dazzling visuals. The idea of someone being so consumed by the past they can’t live in the present is intriguing as are the multitude of action sequences. Even the usually mediocre Hugh Jackman gives something resembling a performance making for a stoic hero. He is effectively aided by Ferguson’s role as a shady femme fatale and the strange world in which they live.

Where ‘Reminiscence’ falls apart is how it tells the story. There’s a sense of things having been heavily edited as the complex story quickly becomes bogged down. The plot is scattered, never having the focus ‘Reminiscence’ needs. Although most film noirs are complex, ‘Reminiscence’ sinks into the murky depths of boring incidents and muddled motivations. Joy shows flair in showing off her character’s surrounds and despite several issues, shows promise as a decent film-maker.

Sci-fi fans will feel they’ve seen ‘Reminiscence’ before. A title like ‘Deja Vu’ would have been better as the story’s familiar beats keep increasing. At least compelling you to engage your mind while watching for the myriad of dark avenues it goes down is enough to test anyone’s strong memories.

Rating out of 10: 5

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