It has to be the ne plus ultra of unwieldy movie titles: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. Not the longest, most baffling or incoherently worded, there is nevertheless something about the title that screams contrivance. A title in need of a movie. Just roll it around your tongue as you say it and you can almost feel yourself pronouncing the colon. It doesn’t even bother with the 2, the inclusion of which, I think, would actually make it less clumsy to say. It’s like the title itself has its own mythos, its own legend which, considering the titular villain, as something of a neat trick to pull.
This is a sequel that’s beloved of League of Gentlemen horror movie buffs Henry Portrait and Ally Welles, which should be a dead giveaway as to its selling point and the ultimate confirmation of its status as marginally entertaining straight to video schlock. Following the Scream 2 rules of horror sequels, Farewell to the Flesh ramps up the violence: It’s bigger and bloodier. Regrettably, the gore is amped up at the expense of a cogent subtext, to the point where it seems to become uber fodder for the League’s pair of tedious gore-hounds. It’s basically just loads and loads of killings.
Its predecessor pulled off a superb feat of writing by juggling ballsy horror with an interesting take on the idea of an urban legend. Adapted from the Clive Barker short The Forbidden, Candyman wore its working class scouse influences on its sleeve, switching the scene to inner-city Chicago and complimenting the source material’s discussion on disenfranchised lower classes with one about race. The sequel moves the action down south, to New Orleans, a city with arguably more horror (certainly voodoo) kudos but seems to waste its location.
There’s a Summer of Sam vibe about the city as a murderer on the loose, prompting rumours that the Candyman has appeared, in the flesh, so to speak. A visiting English professor flogging his book about the hook-handed one, meets a sticky end in a bar toilet, with suspicion turning to local man, Ethan (William O’Leary) who seems to be tied up with the legend of the Candyman. Certain that her brother is innocent, his schoolteacher sister Annie (Kelly Rowan) investigates the killing, spurred on by a problem pupil who claims he has had a recent run in with the bee-covered killer.
It has meandering charm, of sorts, and an inherent watchability in large part due to the fact you’re never more than ten minutes from a hellishy violent murder. Reductive as it is to view it only in terms of its gore, it seems apt as the movie itself seems to be interested in little more than splashing the claret. There are wasted opportunities to investigate contemporary alienation and racism in the deep south in favour spotlighting the practical effects which, while genuinely good, feel like so much dressing to socio-political through line that’s never fully realised.
Eventually it reaches a narrative conclusion that feels like a Twilight Zone cast off; a twist that’s simultaneously obvious and unbelievable. Fine, just about, if you collect blood, but there are better choices at the video store.
Dir: Bill Condon
Scr: Rand Ravich, Mark Kruger
Starring: Tony Todd, Kelly Rowan, Timothy Carhart, Veronica Cartwright
Prd: Greg Feinberg, Sigurjon Sighvatsson
DOP: Tobias A Schliessler
Music: Philip Glass
Runtime: 97 minutes
88 Films presents Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh on Special Edition UK Blu-ray now