Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Tony Todd, Kelly Rowan, William O'Leary, Veronica Cartwright, Michael Culkin, Matt Clark. Horror, USA/UK, 95 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by 88 Films on 25th March 2019.
Being the closest thing that the 1990s got to a Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees it was inevitable that 1992s CANDYMAN would get a sequel; after all, a mythology based on a Clive Barker short story, a star-making performance from Tony Todd and a successful mainstream horror movie that wasn't a splatstick comedy back in 1992 was just begging to be mined for more, and how did the film makers decide to continue the legend of the titular Candyman? By giving us the glimpse at his origins along with a story set in New Orleans where the urban legend of the Candyman is as well known as it was in Chicago's Cabrini Green.
This is because New Orleans is where the Candyman (a returning Tony Todd) was born as Daniel Robitaille back in the 19th century and where the legend was also born after Robitaille was put to death by the white social elite for getting the daughter of his plantation owner master pregnant, and in scenes of graphic violence we get to see Robitaille having his right hand sawn off and his body covered in honey, attracting a swarm of bees (Does that work? Bees create honey but are they attracted to it as well?) that will sting him to death – at least that sort of explains the bees that were so prominent in the first movie!
In between the flashbacks, though, is the plot of CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH and true to the law of sequels there isn’t as much to sink your teeth into as there was the first time around. In the first film the Candyman myth is intrinsically linked with urban legend and the academic viewpoint of how a mythical character can become a reality when there are so many people using the name to frighten others, such as the drug dealer who assumes the moniker to dominate the gangs in Cabrini Green, and here the character is whispered about in the classroom of teacher Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan – HOOK) by children whose knowledge of Candyman is never fully explained but, for one young boy in particular, seems to be quite proficient.
Annie becomes the central character that Candyman is drawn to and we do get to find out why, which is what ties into those all-important flashbacks, but up until that point in the movie all we know is that Annie’s father was murdered in a Candyman-style killing a few years before and her brother Ethan (William O’Leary – HOT SHOTS!) has been accused of the murder of Candyman expert Phillip Purcell (Michael Culkin, the only other cast member to return from the first movie), and from then on we follow Annie as she tries to get to the bottom of the whole Candyman legend and find out why her family is so involved in anything related to the mythical killer.
And so CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH treads a similar path to its predecessor and hits some similar beats but, again following those sequel laws, it all feels a little pedestrian and just not as effective. The main problems stem from some uneven pacing and long periods where not a lot actually happens, plot details in the script that don’t make much sense – the aforementioned bees, the laboured and over-complicated way that the townsfolk kill Daniel Robitaille, if New Orleans is where Candyman was from then why was the first film set in Chicago, etc. - and an extremely dull lead performance from Kelly Rowan, who tried to do a Virginia Madsen-style hypnotic stare whenever she faced Tony Todd but her teary-eyed blandness just didn’t engage at all (it probably also didn’t help that Tony Todd saying “Annie” in his creepy Candyman voice just doesn’t sound as tantalising as when he said “Hel-en” in the previous movie).
However, there is still a lot of good here. Tony Todd has fully embraced the character by this point and is as magnetic when he is on-screen as he was before, and it is just a shame that for the first two-thirds of the movie he is barely in it, save for an opening kill. The writing has made his character more of a slasher than he was last time, seemingly relishing his kills a little more – although when you get to his backstory you can see why – and the kills are a lot gorier. The benefit of the Blu-ray picture is that you can see a lot more of the gags than on previous DVD/VHS releases and whatever the merits of giving Candyman his backstory, at least we can see it in all of its gloriously gruesome detail, although the mid ‘90s CGI that gets used at the end of the movie still looks terrible – cleaner, but still terrible.
Included on the disc is an audio commentary by director Bill Condon and interviews with actors Tony Todd and Veronica Cartwright, which are worth watching just to hear Tony Todd use a very English swear word, and you also get a collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by film journalists Dave Wain and Matty Budrewicz. To be honest, CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH is not really a sequel that deserves too much fanfare but it is great to have it on Blu-ray to sit alongside the original movie (which got a special edition release last year) and that could mean that somebody may get round to putting out the much-derided CANDYMAN: DAY OF THE DEAD on Blu-ray at some point (Tony Todd does point out in the interview that the rights to all three CANDYMAN movies are owned by three different companies). Until that and the proposed CANDYMAN remake happen, CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH is the second best CANDYMAN movie and will scratch that itch to see more of Tony Todd being seductively evil but overall, this plodder is a big drop-off from the classic original.