While the ’90s is sometimes unfairly labelled as a weak decade for horror films, more than a few titles were able to carve out some cult status. 1992’s Candyman is often remembered as one of the more remarkable diamonds in the rough.
A transgressive mesh of urban gothic, racial tension and contemporary legend, Candyman’s potent elements are skilfully held together by a Bernard Rose’s stylish direction and two captivating performances by Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen. Time has served Candyman well as one of the ’90s most distinctive horror features. Like so many films of course, once Candyman became a bankable enough IP, a sequel was made and Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh was released with one of the most idiosyncratic subtitles this side of Electric Boogaloo, albeit not as memeific as say Citizens on Patrol.
Farewell to the Flesh suffers from the problems that so many sequels endeavour. In an attempt to capture the glory of the original entry, the film is loaded with gimmicky elements as opposed to an effective and organic build upon what occurred before. Farewell to the Flesh loads up on more gore, more jump scares and bloats itself with more characters to up the kill count but in turn, it loses much of the atmosphere that made Candyman stand out.
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Moving the action to New Orleans feels unnecessary. Leaving the urban ghetto which made Candyman such a poignant tale, comes across as a cheat. Whether or not the reasoning is due to some of the challenges Rose faced during the first outing is unclear, however, the move to a new location feels forced, even though director Bill Condon (yes, Oscar winning, Beauty and the Beast directing Bill Condon), tries to maintain an element of the class/racial struggle that runs through the Candyman cinematic mythology, he is tied to a screenplay which is ultimately more focused on being a more typical slasher film.
Whereas the original Candyman made full use of the idea that white ignorance is a significant aspect of systemic racism within Afro-American circles, Farewell to the Flesh is more interested in bending over backwards for its white heroine as opposed to fully grasping the elements which made the original so appealing. Virginia Madsen’s role in Candyman is so effective, not just through her committed performance, but by establishing a character who is flawed by her naivety. Farewell to the Flesh overloads protagonist Annie (Kelly Rowan) with needless secondary characters (although it’s always nice to see Veronica Cartwright), but never full generates the same type of chemistry that Todd and Madsen created together.
Granted, Farewell to the Flesh has Condon crafting a very visually pleasing affair, with interesting uses of mirrored reflection and effective gory set pieces. The film’s decision to build upon Candyman’s backstory is also a notable and rewarding narrative choice. By doing so, it allows an actor like Tony Todd to show an amount of depth that a performance such as himself is often not really given credit for. The Candyman mythos is a sorrowful one and Todd is given ample screen time to give the character the type of pathos that many horror film antagonists are just not designed for.
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Alas, some of this comes a bit too little too late and most of Farewell to the Flesh never becomes anything more than a relatively watchable, often forgettable sequel. It’s heartening that the film is given a decent blu-ray transfer and a disc loaded with a fair number of extras, but one wonders if the film itself is entertaining enough for someone to delve into them. Farewell to the Flesh may be favourable to completists and those who are interested in representation pre-Get Out. However, it’s difficult to recommend to those who fall out of those circles that the film is anything more than just about passible.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is now available from 88 Films.