“Swallow your horror and let it nourish you” ~ Candyman
Horror’s most hypnotic villain returns to slice up those who dare to say his name. Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh was released in 1995 following the success of Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror masterpiece. The sequel set in New Orleans continues the legacy of the eponymous villain, played once again by the masterful Tony Todd as he sets his sights on a new victim, inspiring school teacher Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan).
Directed by Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast-2017), the sequel explores not only the myth behind the mirror but the man who became the legend, Daniel Robitaille. Essentially, Candyman 2 is a retelling of the original with a new location and characters with the added backstory of Robitaille’s untimely demise incorporated in to pad out the plot.
The film opens with Professor Phillip Purcell (Michael Culkin) lecturing a group of eagle-eyed urban legend enthusiasts on the New Orleans leg of his book tour. Lurking in the background is a disgruntled young man with a bone to pick resulting in blood-spilling consequences. In this lengthy opening sequence, Purcell harks back to the first film with a brief discussion of Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), the troubled young woman who became entranced by the mythic villain leaving an ocean of blood shed in her wake.
Instantaneously, the acknowledgement of the original film is a nice touch and a strong start to the proceedings. When sequels ignore the previous events of their predecessors, its an instant disservice to the fan base, therefore the inclusion of Professor Purcell and discussion of Helen is a welcome beginning to the sequel.
Candyman 2 is not tonally dissimilar to its predecessor. There’s a foreboding sense of unease and dread from the get-go which was prominently established in the 1992 film. Visually it presents a murky, urban aesthetic that was present in the first one, with the brash graffiti adorned throughout Annie’s former family home.
Much like the first, the artwork provides strong, powerful imagery, adding to the sense of fear that we feel towards the notion of the Candyman character. Not only is the film striking through its visuals but also within the spine-chilling score composed by Philip Glass. The score is what built the creepy atmosphere in the original from its opening moments. Glass’s score is an emotive, haunting piece incorporating a subtle light piano score before building and becoming more ethereal and dramatic. The inclusion of the music in the sequel was a smart move, again tying it nicely to the first.
When conceiving the idea for a sequel, original director Bernard Rose had been keen to explore the nature of Urban Legends independently from the popular Candyman character. Of course, studio executives felt that the audience would be disappointed and would rather see the titular character return to slash and maim a new set of victims. Given the popularity of the “horror franchise” and the expectations set by the likes of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees etc. the logical and most profitable route would be to transform Candyman and Tony Todd into the next icon of terror.
Tony Todd is equally as exquisite in the second instalment. While the enigma of Candyman isn’t as prevalent with him being an already established villain, Todd keeps his performance authentic, bringing in that same commanding presence that caused fans to fear him the first time around. He remains mesmerizing and frightening, despite being omnipresent in this instalment compared to the previous.
In the sequel we are told of Daniel Robitaille’s tragic backstory and are introduced to his family which to a degree humanizes the villain. This component is divisive amongst the fan base as it provides empathy towards the killer which takes away the fear factor and the air of mystery as to what drives his evil. We are invited to embrace the bogeyman and feel his suffering through Annie’s eyes which complicates the urban legend element somewhat as the film confirms the reality of Candyman rather than his victims being entranced by the myth, influencing them to kill. What it does illustrate is the horrors of black slavery and white supremacy, a subject that is all too real and horrifying. The horror genre is a strong platform to explore these kinds of atrocities in an exaggerated context with Candyman being the quintessential franchise to tackle the subject. As stated, the backstory is a divisive storyline decision as on one hand it is thought-provoking but on the other offers too many layers to a character whose core existence is to provoke fear.
To quote fictional movie buff, Randy Meeks in Scream 2 (1997), “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*”. Candyman 2 certainly abides by this trend when it comes to presenting magnificently, grotesque gore set pieces. The titular villain has a mean hook and he’s far from shy when it comes to using it! Candyman’s exposed bee filled chest also makes for some stomach-churning imagery. The death scenes are far more frequent, action-packed and straight up gory in comparison to the original. Of course, the original had some mighty disturbing deaths and buckets of blood, but they featured sporadically in favour of suspense. The special effects featured in the latter part of the film are exceptionally 90’s and will appear dated to a modern audience but can certainly be appreciated as a product of the time.
Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh is undeniably overlooked when it comes to franchise horror. It was released on the back of a genuine horror masterpiece which was a tough act to follow. Further to that, the film came out a year prior to the post-modern horror revival popularized by Scream (1996) and finally the film was unwelcomed in light of the controversial and highly publicized OJ Simpson trial. The public were unimpressed by the film’s original promotional material featuring an African American male towering over a white female victim and was therefore changed to the artwork that is synonymous with the film today, the image of Kelly Rowan’s Annie encapsulated in a beehive; unfairly eliminating Todd’s presence completely, when he is first and foremost the star of the show.
The film is a classic example of a franchise horror sequel, it follows the same formula the first set up, takes the backstory route to offer more insight into what motivates the killer, whether this is unwarranted or not. Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh is a competent horror sequel that deserves far more credit than its given. There’s a lot worse out there for sure!
Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh returns to the horror fold courtesy of cult label 88 Films. The new re-packaged blu-ray contains a few special features including an insightful interview with Tony Todd himself, entitled “The Candyman Legacy”. Todd discusses his personal thoughts on the franchise in an honest and in-depth manner supplying the perfect companion to the movie.
Get hooked in and dare you say his name five times…! Seek out Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, Out Now!