Film Reviews:

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

aka Candyman 2

(Bill Condon, US, 1995)

Beginning with a direct reference to the events of the 1992 original Candyman, Cambridge scholar Dr Phillip Purcell is on a book promotion tour in the US, and gives a lecture in New Orleans on the Candyman myth. His flippant and dismissive attitude doesn't go down well with the 'dark destroyer' and Dr Purcell is dead even before the opening credits roll. Candyman is back. The plot here attempts to put some flesh on the bones, as it were, on the idea (briefly offered up in the first film) that the Candyman was a New Orleans's slave tortured to death because of his love for a white woman. Meanwhile, police suspect Ethan Tarrant as a Candyman copycat murderer and responsible for the death of Dr Purcell, (Tarrant's father having been killed Candyman style a few years before). Ethan's sister Annie, is disturbed when her brother confesses to murder, believing him innocent and simply punishing himself for being unable to save his father. Circumstances place her in a similar position to the Helen Lyle character from the first film as she becomes the unwitting focus of Candyman's attentions. But why her in particular?

The New Orleans setting is utilised to good, atmospheric effect. Having been to New Orleans, it was good to see that the film presented this unique city with warts and all, and not just the overly familiar old town streets (the Bond film Live and Let Die springs to mind). The scenes of poverty and social decay recall the urban setting of Candyman and this new take on the legend definitely adds an extra eerie dimension - which genuinely does seem to hang in their air at times as anyone who has been to New Orleans can testify. We're told that carnival means 'farewell to the flesh' and the story inevitably builds to the annual Mardi Gras festival. Inconsistencies and familiar characterisation aside, the script isn't bad and goes to great lengths to explain the origins of Daniel Robitaille - the slave whose evil spirit lives on in Candyman. There are numerous period flashbacks which work well and the plot does hold your interest throughout even if it is less cerebral than the first film.

The sequence where Robitaille is brutally hunted down by the townsfolk and has his hand hacked off with a rusty blade is suitably horrendous and one cannot help but empathise with the victim. But logic breaks down as there is no real justification as to why this humble slave should suddenly be resurrected as the personification of evil and slaughter anyone who gets in his way. Moreover, why should he want to kill his descendants? Surely, he would have wanted them to fare better than he did? Overall, Farewell to the Flesh is pretty good a sequels go, and I don't understand why it is given such a hard time by many. Philip Glass again provides the excellent score (which is probably a re-worked version of his original) and the production values are first class as the whole thing looks sumptuous and, for my money, the New Orleans location is far better exploited by this than in, say, Interview With The Vampire. The climax is also far more satisfying than in Candyman and even the film poster artwork is also superior to the original. These plus points along with the non-urban city location also help distance this from what it essentially is, and that is just another stalk 'n' slash horror film sequel. It no only looks better than most of the competition it is better than most of the competition.

Rob Dyer

A-Z of Film Reviews

See also: Candyman (1992)