Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2008-10-11 09:43

Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Mark Kruger and Rand Ravich
Starring: Tony Todd, Kelly Rowan, Timothy Carhart, and Veronica Cartwright

Reviewed by: Wes R.

ďSwallow your horror and let it nourish you. Come with me and sing the song of misery. Share my world.Ē

Franchise horror success shines on some characters (Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers) while leaving others in the dust for whatever reason. Candyman was an iconic, menacing character that was immensely popular for a while, but died out far too fast. With only three films under his belt and unfortunately none further on the horizon, the hook-handed slave ghost has carved himself a moderate cult following among horror fans. Though the last entry in the series, Candyman: Day of the Dead, went straight to video, fans are hoping that someday a studio and filmmaker will team up and resurrect the character for a continuation of the saga. According to a mid-late 90s issue of Fangoria, a young adult novel series (along the likes of that of the Friday the 13th and Halloween YA seriesí) was discussed at one point, but apparently never came to fruition. Still, fans can look back and enjoy at least the first two films in the series.

Only a few days till Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Spirits are high, the party atmosphere is in the airÖbut something sinister is lurking. Chicago Professor Phillip Purcell is in town to promote his new book about the legend of the Candyman, and guess who looks into the mirror cover of the book and says his name five times? Thatís right. When next we see Purcell, heís lying dead in a menís room with a pool of his own blood collecting around his body. Who gets blamed for the murder? Thatís something you canít guess. Enter Ethan Tarrant (played by William OíLeary). Heís been ranting and raving about the Candyman legend to everyone who will listen to him ever since the mysterious, unsolved murder of his father (whom he attributes to the hookman). Soon we meet his sister Annie, who teaches at a nearby elementary school and has a student that is equally obsessed with the legend. Confronted in her classroom one day by frightened students, Annie has no choice but to look the mirror face to face and summon the Candyman. Nothing happens at first, but soon, loved ones surrounding Annie begin to get ripped from their groin to their gullet in the most grisly of ways.

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is not a bad film. Not by a long shot. Iíd go as far as saying that itís every bit as interesting and watchable as Bernard Roseís original film, if not as completely entertaining. Itís not the kind of bad sequel that could ruin a series, nor is it the type of sequel thatís bad enough to send the next film in the series direct-to-video (although, this is unfortunately exactly what happened). I blame the filmís lack of box-office on the mid-nineties horror crash. Letís face it, the mid-90s was as close to a Great Depression as the horror genre is going to get (and hopefully, history will not repeat itself anytime soon.) Truly quality horror films were being released (most, strangely in 1995) but all of which bombedÖ Lord of Illusions, In the Mouth of Madness, Demon Knight. This same exact sequel couldíve come out (assuming the original Candyman had been released a decade earlier) during the 1980s, and been a smash success. Fans were in a different place. Studios werenít sure what the fans that were out there really wanted. The 90s was just a pitiful time to be a horror fan. I know it sounds like Iím just making excuses for the film, but I really feel that it is a good effort and a solid follow-up to the original.

In a way, Candyman 2 commits the cardinal sin of sequels by introducing new characters that have some great significance to the villainís backstory. It usually never works in horror movies and mostly comes off as desperate. Here, though, the characters are interesting enough that any eye-rolling is kept to a relative minimum. The filmís cast is filled with great, familiar character actors. Bill Nunn, William OíLeary (best known to comedy fans as ďDead MeatĒ from Hot Shots!, and Veronica Cartwright. Kelly Rowan proves a very formidable heroine for Toddís Candyman to confront. And speaking of Todd, he completely owns this role. Recent talk of a remake of the original film says that Candyman will be played by a white actor. I really think this is a mistake, because the character and his tragic past is so well-known among the mainstream cinema fans that seeing anyone other than Tony Todd playing the part would just beÖbizarre.

Jumping immediately from horror to mainstream critical success, director Bill Condon has gained acclaim for directing Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, and Dreamgirls. Even by this early effort, you could tell that he was a competent and artistic force that Hollywood would have to reckon with eventually. Heís the type of director that horror fans wish were still working within the genre, but of course, we also wish him well. One of the best decisions that either Condon or the producers made was to bring back composer Phillip Glass. While bringing back familiar pieces from the original film, Glass adds yet more haunting synth and piano instrumentals to his horror movie canon. Itís amazing that more horror filmmakers havenít hired him for projects. Perhaps they have and heís just turned them down, Iím not sure, but his style is simply perfect for all the things that go bump in the night, and hereís hoping that he too someday returns with another stunning horror film score along the lines of his work in the Candyman films.

The film doesnít offer much in the way of nudity (although there is a near miss bottom-half-of-boobs shot in a shower late in the film), and though the kills are violent, there isnít a whole lot of blood or gore either. Most of the violent effect from the kills is due to clever editing and squirm-inducing sound effects. Donít get me wrong, there are some good moments for gorehounds, but itís not a complete bloodbath. I liked how the originality of the story allowed for the film to take place in New Orleans. If you think about it, if youíre talking about a killer who is literally a myth, he/she could come and get you anywhere, in any city. Speaking of New Orleans, the filmmakers make great use of the setting. Though the deep-rooted voodoo mysticism of the bayou has been the backdrop of such recent horror films as Hatchet and The Skeleton Key, not too many horror films before this sequel utilized the area. Condon and his crew make the best of it. We get a creepy old plantation house, streets filled with all sorts of fun and debauchery, not to mention an underlying, uneasy feeling as the filmís continual pseudo-narrator (known only as Kingfisher) keeps making cracks on the radio about the rising waters of the Mississippi that are going to wash away the townÖthis, some ten years before Hurricane Katrina caused massive, catastrophic flooding in the city.

MGM released this film on DVD, surprisingly with an audio commentary with director Bill Condon. Condon discusses among other things the decision to feature the Candyman character as being ďrealĒ as opposed to leaving the viewer unsure if heís real or not as the first film played to great effect. I think Condon made the right decision, as even he himself admits that there is only a certain amount of time in a film or series in which a gimmick like that can work. It worked fine for Roseís film, but the sequel needed to break new ground. The DVD also features the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio. The video transfer is pretty good, with virtually no visible blemishes, and the audio track is great. When Glassí music starts out in the opening credits, make sure the volumeís up because itíll make you both excited and nervous about all thatís to come. Though the scares arenít plentiful and it isn't quite as good as the first movie, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is a solid sequel. It had the misfortune to be released just as sequels were going out of vogue, and thus was unjustly punished at the box-office. Now, over ten years later, I think a new generation of horror fans can watch the fantastic MGM DVD release and be impressed by Bill Condonís crisp direction, the castís superb performances, and a tragic horror villain that I believe will stand the test of time. Buy it!

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