Back in the day, I often wondered why Clive Barker’s hook wielding, bee spitting, romantic gut-splitter we all know as the Candyman never became one of the elite clutch of returning horror heroes alongside Freddy, Jason, Michael and company. After all, his first outing is truly superlative and with Bernard Rose’s direction and it’s savagely smart location, it created a bewitchingly hypnotic tale of race, class and ripping people to pieces with a big fucking hook, Tony Todd’s base-throated leading man had the style and the brains to be the next big thing in scary movies. Even his look lent itself to horror immortality, what with his monstrous, gore flecked hook making him a reluctant lefty, a ribcage that doubles as a hive and let’s not forget the mirror related rules used to invoke him being instantly iconic.
So what the hell happened? For years I openly wondered until one day I settled down to watch the 1995 sequel and then realisation washed over me like like a tide of poorly made shit – simply put, Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh is fucking awful.
Annie Tarrent is a school teacher in New Orleans whose father died years earlier under mysterious circumstances while obsessively chasing the Candyman myth for reasons he kept to himself (gotta have a hobby, I suppose…) and years later her brother finds himself in a spot of police bother when the gruesome murder of an author also studying the urban legend is laid at his door. The brother doesn’t have a leg to stand on, however, as he was witnessed threatening the victim not twenty minutes before he was discovered opened up like a tin of beans and so Annie visits him to find out what’s going on.
At the same time one of her students is also taken up by the myth of the hook handed killer (what, does EVERYONE know about this guy now?) and so calm his fears – and because this is a deeply stupid 90’s horror sequel – she says the Candyman’s name five times into a mirror and proceeds to watch as the murderous urban legend start slaughtering the people around her like he has a steep disembowelment quota to fill.
As Annie tries to figure out the secret connection between her and the supernatural slasher while trying to uncover his origin the Candyman aims to sacrifice her because… I dunno – bad guy, y’know?
I was truly unprepared for how bad a job Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh does on pretty much every level it’s supposed to work on, it’s staggeringly unscary, a laughable sequel to a legitimate classic and even it’s social commentary is so off it seems to think that all you have to do to stir up themes of race and class is to set it in New Orleans and have people look a bit sad. Oh sure, the first movie had a white lead but it still burrowed under the skin of living in the poverty stricken projects of Cabrini Green, here we an obnoxious radio DJ (who never seems to play any music) called Kingfisher who spends literally his entire air time banging on about Mardi Gras and telling us how shit everything is (I would LOVE to see who actually wants to advertise on his show).
Even with a lack of decent social issues, Candyman’s sophomore outing surely has a shot at raising some scares but regrettably this film is one of those atrociously edited 90’s movies that chooses to wallop you around the face and head with shitty jump scares that thinks true terror comes from blasting a musical sting directly into your eardrums every five minutes – unless I read it all wrong and it was the movie’s INTENTION to confuse fear with irritation…
Speaking of the music, the movie also manages to squander one of it’s most powerful gifts by having utterly no idea how to properly utilize Phillip Glass’ haunting score, using it to clumsily bridge scenes and having it fade in and out of the film without warning as carelessly as a three year old attacking a white wall with it’s crayons.
Speaking of wasted gifts, Tony Todd is horribly served by the flimsy script which – while giving him plenty of squishy bodies to rend open – leaves him as threatening as a bambi-eyed beanie baby as his once powerful persona is reduced to him just standing there with virtually no staging whatsoever. It also doesn’t help that everyone around him doesn’t seem to be able to spit out a single believable line reading between them and has all the acting conviction of a 1980’s accident prevention video…
All of the above wouldn’t be quite so offensive if the movie had been slung out cheaply in order to make a quick buck but not only did Clive Barker have a hand in the script but the wretched thing was directed by Bill Condon, a man who went on to vastly bigger and better things with Gods & Monsters, Beauty And The Beast and the last two Twight movies (ok, so maybe not necessarily BETTER, but…) so what transpires is nothing short of bafflingly terrible.
At the beginning of this review, I asked the question why the Candyman isn’t considered in the top tier of classic horror characters and regrettably the answer seems to be Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh (although the equally abysmal third movie surely didn’t help). However, a brighter future may yet lay on the horizon for horror’s most reluctant beekeeper with Nia DeCosta and Jordan Peele’s upcoming “spiritual sequel” hopefully putting the character and his mythos back where it should have been all along.
To summon the Candyman all you have to do is say his name in a mirror five times… you may find yourself repeating the word “bullshit” way more than that while watching this cheap, blunt sequel…