Friday, October 24, 2014

Candyman 2: Farewell To the Flesh

Candy 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
Dir. Bill Condon (?!)
Written by Rand Ravich, Mark Kruger, from a story by Clive Barker
Starring Tony Todd, Kelly Rowan, Timothy Carhart, Veronica Cartwright, Bill Nunn

You know how Jazz began in New Orleans, and then migrated up to Chicago, but caught on there and was first recorded and introduced to the rest of the world as the Chicago style, only to have its success revive the New Orleans sound and identity in the process? Turns out Candyman is the same thing. We learn here that Daniel “Candyman” Robitaille (Tony “Candyman” Todd) was in fact a New Orleans native, a son of the South who we got to know up in Chicago in the original CANDYMAN, apparently solely due to the fact that he’s accessible anywhere there’s a mirror. But CANDYMAN: FAREWELL 2 DA FLESH is bringin’ it all back home. This is a strictly Cajun affair, where off-screen voices will frequently be talking loudly about gumbo (it’s called authenticity, people. Look it up).

There’s a lot of white people at the start, though, and they’re all of lesser quality than part 1’s Virginia Madsen and Xander Berkeley. Kelly Rowan (a character named “Lorri Lee” in THE GATE?) plays a nice rich white lady teaching a class of loveable black kids about how to stop worrying about Candyman so much. At first she doesn’t seem to have a lot of connection to or interest in Candyman, except for the unusual fact that her brother is currently in prison, prime suspect in a series of recent hook-related murders.* And also her dad died years ago under mysterious hook-related circumstances. And her mom is Veronica Cartwright, you so know she’s going to get drunk and reveal a major secret at the end of the third act. But other than that, and the fact that she teaches a class of kids who seem to think and talk about nothing but Candyman, there seems to be no obvious link, at first.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall... who's the fairest of all the hook-wielding maniac of all?

Things get off to a clunky beginning. It was an early cheapie for Bill Condon (GODS AND MONSTERS, KINSEY, and, uh, TWILIGHT PART III) and has some of that ugly 1995 production design and lighting (and clothing, obviously). But considering that the excellent original CANDYMAN didn’t exactly scream out for a dubious cheapie sequel, this is better than I expected. Not as good as it could have been, but better than expected. It starts off a little rough but the strong use of real New Orleans locations combined with the central tragedy of Candyman’s story end up building a nice atmosphere of gothic tragedy by the end. Around the halfway mark it shakes off a lot of its more dubious elements and focuses on giving us some solid Candyman action, plus eventually Bill Nunn shows up as a priest. Even the crappiness of the 90’s can’t prevent New Orleans (pre-Katrina!) from looking mysterious and cool, so that helps.

It’s a rare sequel where we actually learn a little more about the central monster, but it doesn’t de-mystify him or seem like needless overexplanation. We learn what the deal is with the mirror, for example, I don’t think that was covered in the original, but it tells us a little more about him and why he ended up this way. They also finally explain the “Candyman” nickname, arguably less successfully. Still, Tony Todd has a great presence, and does a nice job with both the tragic backstory and the modern-day hookhand killer schtick. Makes you understand why the hookhand killer from I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER hides his face, who wants to have to compete with Tony? In fact, it occurs to me that if they ever wanted to rethink the whole “Candyman” nickname and, say, name him after one of his more memorable features (“HoneyCombRibMan” or “HookHandKillerDude” or “ThatGuyFromWhenWeSayHisNameFiveTimesInTheMirror”) they could easily rename this series I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST CENTURY.

You can tell this is the past, because it's sort of beige.

That’s ultimately the coolest thing about Candyman, of course; he’s not just a standard hookhand killer, in some ways he’s a reflection of America’s racist and murderous past come back to haunt us. This movie gives a more literal explanation, but I can’t help but feel that the significance of summoning Candyman through the mirror is that he’s really a reflection of us, of a culture who would murder a man because of who he loved, simply for of the color of his skin. Maybe we don’t want to think about it, maybe we even want to deny that we’re implicated it that, but when you look at yourself in the mirror and say his name, you’re tacitly acknowledging that on some level there’s no forgiveness that can be given for the crimes that this country perpetrated.** We’re connected to it, and even as much as we might try to deny it, the truth it waiting there behind the mirror (the narrative has a nice twist towards the end which actually makes this explicit, I like that).

Anyway, nowhere in the same league as the first one, but if you can make it through the rocky first half the end manages a nice apocalyptic vibe and a satisfactory respect for the strengths of the story. It’s in no way required viewing, but for the true Candyman aficionado, it might provide some mild satisfaction. If you don’t believe me, just look in the mirror and repeat “I love cheapie franchise sequels” five times. It’ll come to you.

*But wait, you think, that proves nothing! It could just as easily be a Hellraiser-related fatality! True, but what if I told you it was that same ponytail’d professor guy from Part I? That raise any alarms?

**We should thank our lucky stars he wasn’t a Native American, then he’d really have cause to be pissed.

The Hunt For Dread October

  • LITERARY ADAPTATION: "From the Mind of Clive Barker"
  • SEQUEL: Yes, to the beloved original
  • REMAKE: No
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: Bill Condon, directing one of his first films
  • BOOBIES: Don't think so. No specific recollection.
  • DISMEMBERMENT PLAN: Candyman loses his hand
  • HAUNTED HOUSE: Nah, not exactly
  • THE UNDEAD: Yeah, our man of the hour is definitely a ghost, right?
  • POSSESSION: There's definitely a possession-y vibe with the dad I think
  • PSYCHO KILLERS (Non-slasher variety): I think this is closer
  • EVIL CULT: None
  • TRANSMOGRIFICATION: Does the bee stuff count? I guess not.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid. Sequel to beloved classic, got studio release but not much attention.
  • MORAL OF THE STORY: Don't murder handsome African American artists/heir to shoe fortune, because hundreds of years after you are dead random people unrelated to the murder will be haunted by his vengeful ghost.
  • TITLE ACCURACY: Well, I still think it would make more sense to call him hookhand guy, but the Candyman part is correct, and the "2". I don't know what "Farewell to the Flesh" means, presumably its a literal translation of “carne vale” aka Carnival, which would make sense with the New Orleans setting, but doesn't really meaningfully figure into the movie. I'll say 80%.
This is a little generous, but I'm willing to give it credit for not being as crappy as I imagined. Call it C-

No comments:

Post a Comment