JULY 16, 2008
If memory serves, and it rarely does, I rented Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh when it hit VHS, fell asleep watching it, and didn’t bother to rewind when I woke up. There can’t be any other way to explain it, because the end seemed familiar, and obviously I had seen the beginning, but I didn’t even have the slightest bit of recognition or déjà vu as I watched the middle part of the film. Crazy ice cone salesmen, Timothy Carhart (a nice replacement for fellow “asshole actor” Xander Berkeley) being scared by a raven, some dudes outside, and his own girlfriend in a single sequence, Bill Nunn dressed as a priest, etc... none of this stuff rang even the tiniest bell.
Sadly, the “meh” feeling I recalled having then is the same one I have now. Having just watched the original a couple weeks or so ago (as opposed to about 3 years between them in the 90s), it’s easy to see what went wrong: namely, a complete lack of mysteriousness for Candyman. In the film’s very FIRST SCENE, we are given a lot of his backstory (courtesy of that one asshole professor from the original, the only non-Candyman person to return), which sort of ruins him for the rest of the movie. Then the final 15 minutes are almost entirely a flashback to his “origin”, something that should have been revealed a bit BEFORE the finale of a horror movie. Kind of hard to get scared or anything when the writers and director are more interested in what already happened than what is about to.
Plus, isn’t it a bit early for the "sympathetic" origin stuff? It took Freddy 3 movies to get some of that, and then 6 to get the rest. This one gives everything away. I haven’t seen 3, but I’m guessing any sort of revelations are either going to be completely unimportant (maybe Candyman had a fondness for apples) or revisionist. They also act like it’s a much later film in the series by not having a “2” in the title. Again, this is reserved for later sequels, so that unassuming folks won’t realize it’s actually the 8th part or whatever. If it’s only the second film, you’re just tricking people into thinking it’s the first one, which is kind of dumb. Especially when the film’s trailer has what has to be the most idiotic tagline of all time: “A motion picture that ends what the first one barely started”. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Barely started what? Sucking?
The lead actress is no help. Kelly Rowan is someone you’d expect to see in a Wes Craven Presents* film, because she is so bland and blonde. No match for Virginia Madsen at any rate. This is probably why Tony Todd got top billing, despite being in it I think even less than the original (he only appears once in the first 45 minutes), where he got the “And” credit. Thankfully, he talks a lot less here, until the finale anyway. And when he does, it’s not gothic poetry sounding, so there’s one of the few improvements.
One thing I’ll give credit to each of the Candyman films for is having a variety of locales that play a big factor in the film’s story. Cabrini Green in the original, New Orleans here, and from what I understand, the LA Day of the Dead festival in 3. Conventional wisdom would have new folks moving to Cabrini Green and having Candyman stalk them, but that’s not the case here. Had the series continued, it could be like horror’s own travelogue series. “Candyman visits picturesque and yet war torn Iraq.”
The movie also contains what I believe is the only non-sympathetic cancer sufferer in movie history (not counting dying mafia dons and the like). Veronica Cartwright plays Final Girl’s mom, and she’s a racist snob who is dying (and drinking, which probably doesn’t help). In between passive aggressive putdowns of people who aren’t white, she points out how she won’t live long enough to see her hair turn gray or how she can fit in her prom dress again. Yeah lady, I feel real bad for you. Go die.
Another hilarious “first” is a scene in which two characters drive up to a spooky house to investigate. Usually this will involve one of them pulling a gun out of the glove box, to the concern of the other one. But nope, this movie does the scene with a cell phone (1995, don’t forget). “What’s that for?!?!” she cries, as if he had pulled out, well, a gun. “Just in case,” he says. Just in case what? You want to text your buddy? Go get a goddamn gun like every other movie character that’s just gonna die anyway.
The film’s most annoying concept is a radio DJ who never shuts up. Like the one in End of Days, he’s sort of providing global exposition, reminding us when the festival occurs, what it means, etc. He is even shown at the festival, but according to the credits he’s played by a different guy than the one doing the voice. So they shelled out dough for two people to play one annoying and worthless character. He’s like what Candyman was in the first one – namely, someone who should never open his goddamn mouth.
Unlike the original’s DVD, this one is pretty light on extras. Namely, just a commentary with future Oscar winning director Bill Condon. He’s surprisingly pretty candid about the film’s faults, even admitting the first one is better. He also reveals some things he now regrets (like the DJ!) and other tidbits. He’s also strangely silent for minutes at a time, which makes me wonder if he went off even more and the studio had it edited out. Then again, I can’t imagine any studio would care – the film was originally Gramercy in theaters, Polygram for video, and now the DVD is MGM. For a sequel to a Sony film.
How’s part 3? Anyone see it? This one wasn’t BAD, it was just so goddamn bland, which is in some ways worse. No wonder I couldn’t remember any of it from 12 years ago, it’s only been 4 hours since I watched it again and I’m already pretty hazy on a lot of the details. Did the asshole cop ever die?
What say you?
*Such as Dracula 2000, which was also set in New Orleans, and made a big deal about the city’s history and such. And Hatchet also had Mardi Gras as a focal point. Which begs the question – does any horror movie take place in the non-historical, non-Mardi Gras parts of New Orleans? Is Mardi Gras a yearlong event? Is Bourbon Street the only street in town? One thing about Los Angeles, which I’ve mentioned before, is how there aren’t a lot of “traditional” shooting locales that you expect to see whenever a movie is set there. Read all about it in my new book: “Things That Bug Me That You Never Even Noticed And Certainly Don’t Give A Shit About To Boot”.