Candyman is easily one of the best horror films of the 1990s. Adapted from a short story in one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, Candyman was a supernatural slasher film that dealt with urban legends. Candyman was no specific person with a specific story, he was a thousand different stories all wrapped up into one aggregate boogeyman. There were shades of Bloody Mary, the hook-handed killer, and other bits thrown in to form a character that seemed like the sum-total of humanity’s superstitious fears.
The movie is a slow crawl that uses the titular character sparingly for maximum effect and builds toward an ending that still leaves me in awe upon watching it to this day. Tony Todd is amazingly creepy in a perfectly understated way, there’s no real malice or theatrics to Candyman, he doesn’t seem to feel one way or another about the people he kills. He’s a force of supernatural energy, not unlike Clive Barker’s cenobites, he fills a role and good or evil don’t play into it at all.
Candyman is a movie that both leaves plenty of room for sequels but also has no reason for them. It’s like It Follows in that there’s nothing more one can do with the plot but retread it or massively change the chemistry that made it work in the first place. Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh aims for a middle-ground.
We find out that the man known popularly as Candyman was Daniel Robitaille, the son of slaves who lived in the south. Daniel fell in love with a white woman and the two had a child, and for this Daniel was lynched. He was beaten and had his hand cut off with a rusty saw, he was then smeared with honey and set upon by a swarm of bees. It was due to his honey-slathered body that his tormenters dubbed him Candyman and coined his signature phrase, “Sweets for the sweet.”
Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan) is is the youngest daughter of a wealthy New Orleans family who has lived there for over a century. Her father was murdered under mysterious circumstances and her brother (William O’Leary) insists it was because he summoned Candyman by the usual means of saying his name five times into a mirror. Annie teaches art to poor inner-city kids and to soothe their concerns over the mythical killer she brazenly performs the summoning ritual herself. Of course Candyman shows himself to be real. Annie searches for a way to rid herself of the phantom murderer and discovers her own personal connection to Daniel Robitaille in the process.
Does It Hold Up?
Not quite, but pretty close. Candyman worked on such an elemental level that gaining any insight on why there was a skeleton man in a fur coat filled with bees sporting a bloody hook for a hand was going to ruin it. Candyman 2 surprisingly does its best to not make this reveal anti-climactic but add to the mythical nature of the character.
Candyman was a very urban movie, set in a ruined part of Chicago where the poor and disenfranchised were sequestered. While Candyman 2 keeps the concepts of urban decay and racial oppression at the forefront, arguably making them even more prominent. We swap out the cold midwest for the deep south and the urban gothic for a more southern gothic feel. This is a world of decaying plantation houses, wealthy families with a lineage of secrets and more than a few skeletons in their closets. Candyman is more defined and less a force of nature, his purpose one of unfocused revenge on a world that allowed him to be victimized. In sequel style, the movie even presents him with a weakness this time. But the vein of myth still sticks to the movie and though Candyman 2 is different from its predecessor and not quite as spooky because of it, it still very much works. The film finds a way to justify the use of blond, white, heroin in a movie about a black boogeyman who is primarily feared by a poor, mostly black community.
There is some real thought put into Candyman 2, and while it is as much a reboot as a sequel, the film is well-made enough to mostly stave off the bits of sequelitis creeping in around the edges.
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