Review: “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh” (1995)

candyman224yl“Oh bee-HIVE!” – Candyman doing standup in Leeds

Recently I found myself holding the DVD for the long-forgotten follow-up to the surprisingly effective urban legend supernatural slasher Candyman in my hot little hands. Since the film was one of the earliest directing jobs of gay director Bill Condon – who has since gone on to direct Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters and Kinsey and will next be tackling the final film in the godawful Twilight franchise – I thought I’d actually watch the thing all the way through and see if it demonstrated any of the fledgling director’s brilliant promise.

90 minutes later, I found myself saying “Bill Condon” five times while looking in the mirror, hoping that he would manifest so that I could shake him like a crying baby for delivering such a ridiculous borefest.

(Love ya, Bill!)

candyman2Kelly Rowan considers the “wet look”

Candyman: Farewell to the Franchise Flesh takes place in New Orleans shortly after the Chicago-based events of the original film. Other than that it’s pretty much the same movie as the first, only not as scary and with the admittedly inspired addition of Veronica Cartwright as a drunk rich woman. Never forget: Adding some Ronny C. to ANY project will instantly elevate your film to high camp – so even if the rest of the movie sucks (as in this case), you’ll at least have some excellent eye-rolling and raspy bitchiness to fall back on. (And if you’re nice, she may even vomit cherry pits on cue.)

Anyway – as I said, this is pretty much the same movie as the first, only with more background trannies and glitter. See, the action takes place during Mardi Gras, which if nothing else serves as a fun travelogue of what a mid-nineties vacation to the French Quarter might have been like (hint: lots of long skirts, vests and denim).

This go-round our Blond White Woman, Annie, is played by Kelly Rowan, who was apparently a mom on The O.C. for ages but whom you might best remember from rather awesome Canadian pubescent horror flick The Gate. Tony Todd is back as wronged son-of-a-slave Candyman, and Ronnie C. swans around as Annie’s terminally ill, cocktail-happy, and fabulously-named mother, Octavia.

candyman_2cartwrightOctavia has troubles with either Candyman … or IBS

It seems that Annie’s late father had a taste for the Candy – he is one of several victims in recent Candyman-related unsolved murders in the New Orleans area. At the start of the film we meet up with Professor Philip Purcell (Michael Culkin), who is our bridge to the first film, where he also appeared. He’s not long for this world, though – following a signing for his Candyman book where he ill-advisedly chants the magic word into the reflective metallic jacket of his own book, he is gutted in the bathroom of a bar. But not before an odd bit of flirting with a dashing young black man – hats off to Condon for sneaking a bit of tearoom intrigue into the opening sequence of his film.

Annie’s brother Ethan (William O’Leary) – who blamed Purcell for planting the Candyman seed in their late father’s brain – is suspected in the crime, so she abandons her classroom of squabbling kids (she’s a teacher) to rally her drunk mother and goofball, enabling husband Paul (Timothy Carhart) to try and get to the bottom of things.

If all of this sounds needlessly complicated, it is. In fact, this movie feels more like a cop show with the occasional gutting than a horror movie – or, to put it another way, almost every John Carpenter movie after Halloween. (Let’s just be honest.) It’s not remotely scary. It’s barely even interesting. Were it not for the wonderfully unfortunate mid-’90s fashion and some hilariously inappropriate moments (mostly courtesy of Ronnie C. and Carhart, who seem to be having way more fun with all of this than anyone else) it would be pretty much unwatchable.


And really, let’s not undersell the tragic fashion here. Like most early ’90s horror, this is a veritable time capsule of wearable terror. It’s got Kid ‘n Play hair. There was one confirmed Hillbilly Tuxedo. I think I even spotted a kaftan or two, but I can’t say for sure; at points I was too blinded by the blunt bobs and butt-cuts to look below the neckline.

Anyway, we learn a tiny bit more about Candyman’s history (but not much) and then everything is kind of tied up when it is learned that his power is focused in one hand-mirror that a member of his lynch mob thought to bring along and stick in his face at the moment he died. Because after pitchforks and torches, the third item on any self-respecting lyncher’s face is a looking glass.

candyman2paulButt-cut AND a Hillbilly Tux? Back off, ladies – ALL MINE.

Along the way dozens of WTF moments and loose ends pile up. One of Annie’s students is oddly obsessed with Candyman and even has a shrine to him in his home – which his father, WHO IS A REVEREND, doesn’t seem to find troubling. Uh, really? I guess it’s true what they say about preachers’ kids – they CRAZY.

There’s also a lengthy sideplot about Annie’s childhood home that made zero sense – for some reason the mansion is now a graffiti-covered crackhouse and has been for years, yet the vandals didn’t think to shatter the enormous mirror hanging in her childhood bedroom. What’s going on here? Did her family have the worst realtor in New Orleans or are antebellum mansions just so easy to come by down there that people just leave them to decay when they move on to a new house?

And don’t even get me started on the fact that Annie has no discernible accent despite having lived her entire life in N’Awlins. Heck, I know people who come back from a long weekend there sounding like the fucking Swamp People.

Overall, Farewell to the Flesh is a mildly hilarious mess. The attempted scares are fumbles across the board and while there’s a little gore thrown around it’s more laughable than disturbing. Oh – and the Philip Glass score? GARBAGE. I’m sorry, I know the guy’s a genius and what-what but for the most part I find his film work really distracting. Half the time he noodles around in the background of scenes and makes them feel like transition shots, which does little to help a movie as plot-heavy as this one. I don’t remember the score of the first film bothering me (he did that one as well) but here it’s really out-of-sync.

It’s a shame, because the idea of Candyman – and creator Clive Barker‘s apparent initial aim to make him the first iconic African-American horror bogeyman, complete with a damning racist backstory – is pretty boss. It’s a shame that his legacy got lost in the French Quarter.

In short: Sweets to the sweet, but Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh might rot your teeth. Proceed with caution.



Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is Rated R for fantasy violence. a scene of ridiculously elaborate lynching, and a gratuitous Kid ‘n Play hairdo.

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