CANDYMAN in: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH and CANDYMAN in: DAY OF THE DEAD
Last week I watched this CANDYMAN movie. The review is above but maybe somebody is too lazy to read it so I’ll just say it was surprisingly good and classy for a slasher movie about a guy with bees in his stomach that likes to gut people with a gorey hook hand. Anyway I decided as a completist and foolish optimist I should give these two other Candyman adventures a shot. Maybe lightning strikes three times, you know.
Well truth be told, number 2 is not all that bad. It’s just not all that good either. This one is directed by Bill Condon, who went on to do GODS AND MONSTERS and KINSEY and write some musicals. So it’s not just a random hack, although nobody knew it at the time because this was 1995, it was before they had time travel. Anyway it treats the material as seriously as the first one does, but it’s less dreamy and more literal. The setting is moved to New Orleans which we find out is Candyman’s birthplace.
Unless I missed it, they never gave Candyman a name in the first one. But the same professor who told us his story in part 1 reappears here for a (unexpectedly short) book tour promoting a book about Candyman. And he explains that he was a painter named Daniel Robataille. Throughout the movie we see flashbacks showing exactly what happened to him, how he got the name Candyman (not actually a very convincing answer to that one, actually), where the mirror thing came from, and more.
This follows the standard pattern of slasher movie sequels, you always find out more backstory on the killer. In HALLOWEEN 2 we find out Laurie was actually Michael’s sister, and in the later ones we find out he is part of some secret druid conspiracy or some stupid bullshit like that. In FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 we find out that the son of the killer in part 1 comes back from the dead and then in later installments we found out that he is a retard and kids made fun of him. In TEXAS CHAIN SAW 2 we find out the family is called the Sawyers and they like to enter chili contests. Which is fine, but then in part 4 we find out they are hired to kill by a secret conspiracy of limo riding millionaire thrillseekers, possibly associates of the druids from Halloween. In NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 I don’t think we found out much but later on we learned about Freddy’s mom being a nun raped by insane asylum inmates and how his dad was Alice Cooper and he beat him and also he had a daughter. In HELLRAISER 3 we see Pinhead when he was human and find out that it was alot like NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. In BONES 2 we find out that Jimmy Bones was the first black president, not in this dimension but in an alternate dimension where there is a sequel to BONES.
The problem is, alot of these characters are scary in the first place partly because of the mystery surrounding them. Our minds can fill in the details about how they became who they are and why they are killing. Sometimes it’s good to have a backstory (like in CANDYMAN) but you don’t have to give us the whole fuckin encyclopedia entry. And it was nice that in the first one it was an urban legend. You have to assume it is probaly true based on what we are seeing, but that’s up to interpretation, like a poem.
Sequel directors gotta understand that sometimes less is more. Why do they always have to add in so much new information? Instead of a sequel where we find out MORE about the killer, why can’t we have one where we find out LESS?
Okay, so that’s not possible. But otherwise it would be a good point, in my opinion.
By the way I got a theory about why he comes out of the mirror when you say “Candyman.” See, it’s the same thing as Blacula. In BLACULA, he is an African prince on a diplomatic meeting to try to convince Count Dracula to stop with this slavery bullshit. But Dracula obviously is a racist asshole so he bites the prince and taunts him by calling him “Blacula.” So that’s not his real name, his real name is Mamuwalde, and only racist assholes would call him Blacula. Well, Candyman is the same thing, his name is Daniel Robataille (not “Steve Candyman” like I suggested in my review of part 1). So maybe you could call him Dan or Danny, I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. But definitely Daniel or Mr. Robataille. You call him one of those things but you DO NOT CALL HIM CANDYMAN.
Why? Because in part 2 you find out the person who nicknamed him “Candyman” was a little white kid who called him that because his fellow white bigots were wiping honey on him while they were lynching him. Also you find out they gave him a mirror to look at himself just as he died and that’s how his soul got trapped in a mirror. So obviously, if you’re gonna be going around calling him mean names in the mirror he’s gonna get pissed off and come hook you. You or I would do the same thing if and when we are put in the same situation.
Also I got a theory that you’re not supposed to watch part 2 right after part 1, because if you do you remember that at the end of part 1 Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen joined Candyman in the candyworld to become a part of the legend, etc. Apparently Candyman and Candywoman had some kind of a falling out between part 1 and 2 and now have separate legends, the female version of which is not ever mentioned again except in this review.
The good thing about part 2 is the attempt to continue the serious racial themes in another equally appropriate setting. Alot of America woke up to the racial and class disparity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but the Candyman trilogy already knew about it. The lead character Annie is played by Kelly Rowan who is kind of a Virginia Madsen type, but not in the same league. The New Orleans setting connects closer to slavery than the first one, with Annie’s family owning the plantation house where Daniel R. was born. And it is her family’s denial of their past that drives the murders this time.
There’s also a random bit I liked where Annie’s husband gets all freaked out because some black dudes are standing next to his car. He stays far away but says “Come on, guys!” and beeps his car alarm. That’s a good one, playing off of white people fears, just like the first one played off of fear of housing projects. But the scares are more standard than in part 1, like there really is a spooky old house instead of the modern equivalent. (On the commentary track, Condon humbly admits that this and taking things like the mirror more literally might disappoint some people.)
In part 1 I thought there was alot of tension with the white lady grad student coming in interviewing poor black people for her thesis, and stupidly causing the shit to hit the fan. They try to get a little of that tension in part 2 but the deck is stacked, Annie is more of a heroic white lady because she is a teacher, and a good one. She’s not DANGEROUS MINDS level but she shares the same interests. So they lost that quality.
They do have the same type of score, in fact most of it is the same exact score. At first I wondered how they got Philip Glass to do a slasher sequel, then I realized it was because they still had the tapes. (It turns out he did record one new theme just for the sequel.)
I guess the movie is just like the white lady heroine – pretty smart, well intentioned, but kind of bland. We’ve seen Candyman before but done better, so it’s hard to get too involved in this one. If you watch it though I recommend making it to the end because the secret you end up finding out and the way Annie solves the problem really is unusual and a smart continuation of what was going on in part 1.
I can’t really say that about the cheesy, straight to video part 3 though. The one major thing missing from part 3 that I really liked in the other two – and in horror movies in general – is redeeming qualities. Now maybe they were trying to mix things up a little, make it really stand out and not just be a rehash, but still, I think they should’ve had redeeming qualities. To me, personally, redeeming qualities are an important hallmark of the Candyman series and are crucial for this kind of movie to work.
The settings of Candyman movies are always very important. The first one is so much about Chicago and the Cabrini Green housing projects, and the second one is very much a movie about New Orleans, its racial makeup and its history. Part 3 follows in this tradition, bringing the story to L.A. and making everything in it phoney, like L.A. The first shot in the movie is a closeup of a female eye, ’cause that was the movie poster so you gotta do it. Then the second shot is a crotch shot of Playboy Playmate Donna D’Errico laying in bed wearing panties and a tight t-shirt. And then she sits up to show off her giant fake boobs. I guess they figured that was the one thing missing from the Candyman mythology was blond girls with giant tits walking around in their panties. The other two were good about casting strong women who could convincingly play academics and teachers. But in L.A. you gotta have a former Baywatch star married to a member of Motley Crue. It’s all about fake boobs, fake blondes, and even fake bees in one scene. Because bad CGI is so much creepier than a real person covered in real bees.
D’Errico plays Caroline, the daughter of Annie that is introduced at the very end of part 2. She is grown up now, has boobs, etc. She’s an artist and now owns the paintings of Daniel R. which she manages to get displayed in a small, hip gallery. Unfortunately the owner finds out that Daniel R. is “Candyman” and exploits the whole thing and gets poor Caroline to say his name 5 times in a mirror so that he will come out and haunt her. And sure enough, he comes after her. In an homage to CANDYMAN 2, they completely betray the spirit and originality of the ending of the previous installment.
It’s good that Caroline is trying to stand up for the good name of Daniel R., but he doesn’t make too good of a case for himself. He’s pretty indiscriminate in his killings. So much so that he commits the ultimate horror sequel sin: he makes you sick of seeing him. He repeats his “be my victim” line from part 1 several times and makes so many long speeches that you start noticing how corny he is trying to talk in a low voice like that. It’s almost like it’s some poser doing a Candyman imitation instead of the real Daniel R.
I can’t blame him for phoning it in though when the world around him is not cutting the mustard. The first two tried to find gothic horror in the realities of urban life, this movie doesn’t have a single frame that has any connection at all to real life. Every character is a movie type: the openly racist corrupt cop, the aspiring actress best friend, the mystical healer that knows magical shit about Candyman, the girl who used to be on Baywatch, etc. And because it’s a straight to video budget it all looks fake. When you have a low budget, it is not possible to go outside with a camera and film real stuff that’s there. It is much cheaper to build a big phoney looking set and hire bad actors to ruin everything.
When you’re dealing with an angry ghost covered in bees, you don’t have to be “believable.” But you should try. It helps when the characters seem like people you’ve met and not people you’ve only seen on TV shows. The bad guy cop is especially bad, and then he re-uses the part 1 line about tearing somebody “from groin to gullet.” Now, I’m not 100% sure what a gullet is, but I do know that this knucklehead would never use that word either. I mean come on.
To be fair, maybe this doesn’t feel realistic because it’s in the future, and the future will feel fake. Let me explain. Part 2 came out in 1995 and seems to take place in the present day. At the end of the movie Annie is pregnant, then it skips ahead to when she has her daughter Caroline. In part 3 Caroline has grown into D’Errico, who at the time of the movie was 27. So according to my calculations that means part 3 takes place in 2023 or later. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any new futuristic technology that will help in fighting off Candyman, or if there is she is too stupid to use it.
The most ridiculous thing though is at the end when there turns out to be a gang or cult of goth Candyman worshippers. They seem like villains in a Troma movie. I know that there are very few good part 3s in the world of horror, but this evil goth gang business really seems like part 6 or 7 territory. There is absolutely no excuse for these characters.
And I gotta be honest, at this point I’m really starting to wonder what Candyman’s deal is. He was so brutalized by these racist assholes, but then he spends his time fucking up the lives of his own descendants. If he was gonna get revenge on all white people, or on kids who bother him by calling his name during sleepovers, or on people who are mean to bees, I would understand that. But he doesn’t seem to really care about those issues. I would like to see Candyman either be more socially conscious or more efficient in avenging people that deserve it. A good start for part 4 would be for him to avenge the makers of part 3.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.