Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (Bill Condon, 1995) – After the explosion of rubbery VHS horror in the 1980s, the 90s was a rough decade for the genre. The slasher icons were worn out, the biggest horror trend was adding a sense of irony that diluted genuine scares, and the direct-to-video market crossed the line from low budget charm into name brand amateurism. Yep, there wasn’t a hell of a lot going on for any self-respecting 90s horror nerd to appreciate (beyond unprecedented VHS, laserdisc, and eventually DVD absorption of the classics…ok we were spoiled), but at least there was Candyman.
Dreamed up by Cliver Barker, transferred to film by Bernard Rose, and brilliantly brought to life by Tony Todd, the 1992 ghetto shocker was an instant classic. Candyman’s folklore narrative hook and literal impaling hook served up a dynamite central concept that instantly carved out a place in pop culture. The original classic has aged well and retains a well deserved cult audience. All of which makes it so exciting to see that Shout Factory has decided to finally get Candyman released on Blu-Ray. What’s that? They’re actually putting out the sequel Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. Oh…well, that one is at least ok, I guess.
Made three years after the original Candyman, right around when it was entrenched enough in pop culture enough to seem like a profitable property, Farewell to the Flesh at least aims to be slightly more than an easy hack and slash retread. Clive Barker was involved in the genesis of the script, Philip Glass delivered another moody score, Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, a couple crappy Twilight movies) stepped into the director’s chair, and Tony Todd returned to his trademark role. As far as cash grab sequels go, the talent level is higher than most and that goes a long way. The story involves a teacher (Kelly Rowan) who discovers family ties to Candyman, which leads to a detailed explanation of the now classic movie monster’s origin. Simple? Sure, but there are some decent moments along the way. Candyman’s origin isn’t bad and Todd plays it well. It’s thankfully not one of those instances in which explaining the monster destroys its mystique. The origin story actually decent and Condon/Todd/the make-up department team up for a few solid kill scenes (one involving bees flowing out of Candyman’s face is particularly memorable).
So, the movie has its moments, but unfortunately those moments do stand out from heck of a lot of mediocrity. Despite an evocative New Orleans setting, the limited budget ensures that much of the movie has the same dull TV look of most 90s horror schlock. Aside from Todd, the acting also feels straight out of that era in the worst possible sense. And for every solid set piece that Condon delivers, he tosses in three tiresome fake out jump scares to ensure that no one forgets this is a cheap quick fix horror flick. It’s certainly one of the best 90s horror sequels, but that’s more of reflection of how horrendously derivative that subgenre was than how strong Farewell to the Flesh is.
The decent sequel slides onto Blu-Ray in a disc far better than it deserves. Though the limited production values hampered what was possible, Shout have delivered a very pretty, detailed HD video transfer and a damn fine lossless audio mix thanks to Philip Glass’ shivery score. This is likely as good as this sequel has ever looked or sounded, so you can’t fault Shout Factory for that. The special feature section kicks off with an amusingly self-effacing director’s commentary from Bill Condon. He clearly knows that the movie is no masterpiece, yet fondly recalls the sequel’s creation and seems proud to be part of the Candyman legacy. Next up comes a delightful interview with actress Veronica Cartwright in which she smiles her way through stories about making The Birds, Alien, and oh yeah, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.
Finally, the disc is rounded out with an absolutely fantastic interview with Tony Todd chatting with great affection and more than a little sardonic humor about his entire history with Candyman. It’s one of the best interviews and most entertaining interviews with Todd I’ve ever seen and a shame that it wasn’t saved for the Blu-Ray debut of the far superior original film. That’s kind of how I feel about this disc as a whole to be honest. Sure, this is a pretty great Blu-ray for Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, but I couldn’t help but wish Shout had secured the rights to the first film instead the entire time I was going through the disc. I find it hard to believe that they didn’t get the rights to both films at once, so I wager will see that sucker out on a beautiful new Shout Blu-Ray just in time for Halloween this year. For now, this disc is merely an appetizer to tide us over and for the legions of Candyman fans out there, that tease should be enough for a little while.