screen gems

We need to talk about Colman Domingo, the queer rising star

Candyman

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Teaser: Candyman

If nothing else producer Jordan Peele’s revival of Candyman, which debuted in theatres last fall, will be remembered for one thing: Colman Domingo‘s incredible, Queerty Award-nominated performance. This semi-sequel to the 90s classic follows Alexander (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an artist obsessed with the legend of the Candyman—that is, a different but similar Candyman than the killer depicted in the original film. Of course, as his research continues, the bodies begin to pile up…and Alexander begins to exhibit signs of demonic possession by the Candyman himself.

Abdul-Mateen, himself a star on the rise with Watchmen, this film, and The Matrix Resurrections, cements his reputation as a versatile, fearless actor here. But in truth, the movie belongs to Domingo. He has the difficult job here of rattling off most of the movie’s exposition–always a make-it-or-break-it prospect for an actor. If he can’t make the exposition interesting, the entire movie falls apart. In Domingo’s capable hands, however, this Candyman builds on the mythos of the original, and becomes an absorbing tale all its own. The movie also affords Domingo the opportunity to show off his range, from casual to downright demented, giving the film a delicious energy boost.

The rest of the film is a fun, if mixed bag. Comments on contemporary issues such as police violence, gentrification and systemic racism don’t always fit with the established mythology of the series, and attempts to make the Candyman–an indiscriminate killer–into something of a black anti-hero don’t really work. This revival also misses a bet in not doubling down on the erotic subtext of the original film. Part of what made the original a classic was the sexual chemistry between stars Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd. Todd’s Candyman had less in common with Freddy Kruger than the Phantom of the Opera in that lust drove him as much as killing. We miss that mixture of sex and death here.

Still, this new Candyman has no shortage of style or ambition, and features a great performance by Domingo. Given that he will next embody Bayard Rustin in a new biopic film directed by George Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), we think it high time to get on the fan bandwagon. This man has the potential to become a great character actor in the vein of Jeffrey Wright or Ed Harris. Viewers of Candyman will be able to say “We loved him back then…”

Streams on Amazon, VUDU & YouTube.

Note: This article contains portions of previous articles posted on Queerty.