Tuesday, February 17, 2015
CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) Blu-ray Review
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) d. Bill Condon (USA)
An unnecessary sequel to the 1992 mini-classic that basically tells the vengeful hook-handed boogeyman’s (a top-billed Tony Todd) origin story all over again, relocating the action from the housing projects of Chicago to the sultry climes of New Orleans. Screenwriters Rand Ravich and Mark Kruger – working from executive producer Clive Barker’s screen story – deliver a much weaker narrative this time: The daughter of a Candyman murder victim (Kelly Rowan – not Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child and Freddy vs. Jason fame as I first thought) seeks answers to free her brother, jailed for the killing of a sleazy author (who lays out the “say his name five times in the mirror” legend in the opening minutes to catch latecomers up to speed). What follows is a string of gory slayings and murky investigations, with Rowan’s character ultimately discovering a closer personal connection to her bee-spewing nemesis than she could have imagined.
Farewell marked Condon’s return to the feature film arena after a series of direct-to-cable projects (viewers would do well to seek out his 1987 debut Sister, Sister), but nothing in the pedestrian jump-scares and uneven performances on display here would suggest that his very next project would attract such name talent as Ian McKellan and Brendan Fraser for his Oscar-winning James Whale biopic Gods and Monsters (1998).
Condon, who had previously written the scripts for Strange Behavior (aka Dead Kids) and Strange Invaders (with Michael Laughlin), kept his streak going by penning the adaptation for 2002’s Best Picture winner Chicago before landing back in the director’s chair for his big Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn double-down payday. (His erudite commentary track here gives the impression of one who views the sequel as a necessary step in his artistic journey, and seems not at all embarrassed about its presence on his now-venerable resume.)
Todd is in predictably fine form, using his sonorous voice and imposing physical presence to great effect. Rowan, by contrast, is weak and wan, unfortunate qualities for one’s lead protagonist. Veteran character actors Matt Clark (a slimy sno-cone huckster with a side line in exposition) and Veronica Cartwright (as Rowan’s saucepot mom) lend able support, though neither are in the film long enough to make much of an impact. The frequently underused Bill Nunn, who at this point deserved to be in better projects, thanklessly plays the thankless role of father to one of Rowan’s wayward students with an unexplained psychic link to Candyman. As Rowan’s lover, Timothy Carhart (forever immortalized as Harlan, the would-be parking-lot rapist from Thelma and Louise) meets a particularly prolonged and grisly end.
With lots of pointless (get it?) gore-strewn impaling capped by an unaffecting climax/flashback to Candyman’s tragic demise, everything feels a little thin this time around. Philip Glass’ haunting musical themes make a welcome return to the fold, but it’s hard to get too worked up about what amounts to a repeat performance. Douglas White and Allan A. Apone serve up the grue with enthusiasm, but it feels more than a little gratuitous and overcompensatory, and I’m not sure at whose feet to lay the blame for the chintzy climactic CG splintering and shattering of the Big C. (What’s really scary is that apparently this installment is still leaps and bounds ahead of 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead. Nope, still haven’t seen it and not in any big hurry to complete the hat trick.)
Even so, Shout! Factory (through their Scream Factory imprint) has once again served up a bountiful high-def presentation with ample supplements. A 25-minute chat with Todd reveals the very cool dude persona that has made him a convention fave for nearly a quarter century, as well as the serious artist both celebrated and trapped by the genre. (There are also some fun insider stories to be shared, including how Virginia Madsen used to be hypnotized by director Bernard Rose on the 1992 original whenever she encountered Candyman in order to deliver the desired performance.)
The 10-minute chat with Cartwright, who has her share of genre credits (The Birds, Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), is a bit on the breezy side, with the affable actress recalling wardrobe and weather from the Farewell set and not much more. For a featurette entitled “Down Memory Lane with…”, I’ll admit I expected a little more.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is available now from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE.
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine