Sunday 24 March 2019

Dark Eyes Retrovision #13: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (US 1995: Dir Bill Condon)

When it was originally released, I pretty much ignored Bill Condon's sequel to Bernard Rose's 1992 adaptation of the Clive Barker story, Candyman, on the basis that the original was so good I didn't want my memory of it sullied by an inferior second part.

Re-approaching the movie nearly 25 years later, courtesy of the new 88 Films Blu Ray release, those rather prissy concerns are thankfully a thing of the past, and while Farewell to the Flesh is a rather different beast to the original, it stands up as a pretty watchable film in its own right.

The setting is now contemporary New Orleans, a few days before the carnival of Mardi Gras (the literal translation of the word 'carnival' gives rise to the movie's suffix). Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan), a schoolteacher whose father was murdered by Candyman, comes to town to take up a teaching job. Her brother Ethan (William O'Leary) stands accused of the murder of dad, but knows the truth about who really dunnit. Annie seeks to debunk references to Candyman in her classroom by saying the name five times. Of course this brings forth the spirit, who proceeds to pick people off while showing an inordinate interest in the summoner.

Rather like Rose's film, Farewell to the Flesh explores issues of race by setting the movie in a black neighbourhood in which a white character must earn the community's trust, although the theme is pretty much squandered here, limited to a you're-not-from-round-here street confrontation and some shots of (probably real) down on their luck locals.

Added to this one is the relationship between Annie and her mother, a Tenesseee Williams styled booze guzzling vamp called Octavia (well played by Veronica Alien Cartwright) - the script also gives Annie a direct connection to Candyman, and a more detailed account of his history. All of this keeps the movie interesting but removes any of the mystique from our hook-wielding spirit (Tony Todd at his menacing best); part of the appeal of the original was the woozy dream state of the characters induced by Candyman's appearance - the sequel simply turns him into a Freddy Krueger style killing machine. In fact overall Farewell to the Flesh is terribly prosaic and straightforward; it was only Condon's second feature and his previous rather workmanlike TV crime drama CV shows through clearly here.

Candyman would return once more, for a 1999 direct to video sequel called Candyman: Day of the Dead, but I prefer to think of the franchise ending with the finale of Part 2, which provides a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is released by 88 Films on Blu Ray from Monday 25th March. Extras on the disc include: a booklet by film journalists Dave Wain and Matty Budrewicz (first print run only); ‘The Candyman Legacy’ - interview with actor Tony Todd: and ‘Down Memory Lane’ - interview with actress Veronica Cartwright.

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