Bill Condon/ USA/ 1995/ 93 mins
On Blu-Ray from Mon 25 Mar 2019
Oscar winner Bill Condon’s follow-up to the Chicago-based slasher makes two pivotal missteps before the screaming starts: hiring first time horror writers Rand Ravich and Mark Kruger and relocating to a nascent New Orleans. The studio evidently wanted to cash in on the sleeper hit original by simplifying the moral ambiguity. This strategy was understandable when the box office was factored into the equation, but Ravich and Kruger excise the socio-political commentary which made Candyman so compelling. They may reproduce the “wrongly accused” elements of the original but with none of the skilful insanity that Bernard Rose displayed.
This time the eponymous hook-meister is wreaking havoc during carnival season, which apparently explains the “farewell to the flesh” tagline. Following the original’s formula of our protagonist being summoned through mirror recitation the sequel attempts to recreate the mood with a plot involving Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan), a school teacher who appears to be distantly related to Daniel Robitaille, the corporeal version of Candyman.
Her brother Ethan played by William O’Leary has been framed for the murder of their father and spends the first act in a cell whilst his sister attempts to prove his innocence. It’s not long before the bodies are stacking up and Annie has met with His Candied Self who explains, in detailed flashbacks, their family connection and the racist and exceedingly cruel circumstances of his interracial origins.
Screenwriters seem to focus all their attention on Candyman and his many encounters and ignore the importance of the supporting characters. The origin story is actually relocated to fit the new locale and extraneous elements added to the primary creation story. This is unwise since the strength of the original was the authenticity of the denizens in Cabrini Green tower block which reeked of urban decay and the perceived inherent danger of these enclosed communities.
Both writers have gone on to have middling careers as show runners and occasional feature writers but tellingly there are no horror movies on their respective resumes. The recent news that Jordan Peele is scheduled to attempt to resurrect the franchise makes re-watching this sequel an interesting experience. It is evident that the origin story could benefit from an authentic voice and there is enough brand recognition to make a re-imagining plausible, but for those unfamiliar with the franchise Farewell to the Flesh is a serious example of diminishing returns.