Monday, December 29, 2008

Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (USA, 1995)

Neither half as good as the first Candyman (1992 / trailer) and supposedly even worse than the direct-to-video third instalment, Turi Meyer's Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999 / trailer). Not that the people behind the camera and production of Farewell to the Flesh would lead one to expect this: Clive Barker is still there, as producer and for the story, and director Bill Condon—who has since gone on to direct a variety of popular critic's favorites—not only did his Hollywood teething by scripting two cult favorites, Strange Behavior (1981 / trailer) and Strange Invaders (1983 / trailer), but his 1988 directorial debut Sister, Sister (trailer) is not the worst Louisiana Gothic gathering dust on your local video store's shelves. True, the credited scriptwriter of this dull-a-thon, Rand Ravich, did go on to write and direct something worse in 1999, The Astronaut's Wife (trailer), but can he alone be the blame for Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh?
So what is so terribly wrong here? Everything, actually. The worst is already to be expected within the first five minutes of the film, when after a few cheap false scares and before the first real attack of the Candyman, the viewer is treated to the sight of the sound boom trailing behind a pompous victim-to-be as he strolls down a deserted New Orleans street. Unlike in the first film, the acting in Candyman 2 is uniformly abysmal, with only the returning Tony Todd as the title character managing to put any conviction or presence in his roll. Seldom has there been a film as uniformly miscast as this turkey, especially in the most important parts. Kelly Rowan, as Annie Tarrant, the obscure object of Candyman's bloody desire, sleepwalks through the entire film, seemingly suffering from an overdose of Quaaludes. William O'Leary as her brother Ethan comes across a little better since he now and then has the chance to look beady-eyed and sweaty, but he hardly impresses. Timothy Carhart as Paul McKeever is a bit more likeable in this film than he was as Harlan, the rapist Thelma blows away in Thelma & Louise (1991/trailer), but he hardly makes a lasting impression before he gets a hook through his chest. Veronica Cartwright plays another nerve-strung alcoholic, but the impression is less that she is acting then just being herself. At least Philip Glass' score is still pleasant to hear, even if, for some inexplicable reason, it seems oddly out of place this time around; postmodernist music is not the first thing that comes to mind when one talks about New Orleans. 
To say a sequel is unnecessary is actually too easy a put down, for as James Cameron's Aliens (1986 / trailer) proved, a sequel can often stand on its own as a film. But Aliens and Farewell to Flesh are miles apart in quality or artistic worth. Farewell to Flesh is a predictable and badly acted farce with less real scares than the first film despite a substantially heightened gore and gush level. Farewell to the Flesh is much more closely related to A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2; Freddy's Revenge (1985), in that it is a misfired, incompetently made attempt to create a serial horror figure that somehow fails to catch the secret ingredient that made the horror figure so effective in the first film. In Freddy's case, he did indeed go on to serialization success, but less due to the second film than the lasting strength of the first installment and the increased use of special effects and black humor as of the third film. In Farewell to the Flesh, the filmmakers take the strange approach of trying to give a kill-happy supernatural serial murderer some pathos by introducing an absurd, badly filmed costume drama background story, failing to realize that the Candyman is much too brutal a killer to be able to be given any poignancy at all.
Not that pathos is needed to make a good anti-hero, as both Freddy and Jason prove. But Freddy has humor and a highly surreal sense of style, while Jason is popular less as a character than simply as a forum of vicarious thrills. Candyman's method is relatively redundant and hardly laden with style. Likewise, his supposed justification of revenge is immaterial and false, for there is no valid justification in the selection of his victims other than the simple need on part of the filmmakers to have a continuous body count—indeed, it seems that would-be victims no longer even have to repeat his name five times to become meat-hook fodder. Candyman is much more an effective personification of horror when he simply exists as a supernatural creation, as in part one, and the attempt to give him depth simply does not work.
In Farewell to the Flesh, the viewer gets to watch as Candyman bloodily slaughters everyone the young school teacher Annie Tarrant comes into contact with. The descendent of the aristocratic family that originally owned "Daniel Robitaille," the uppity slave that went on to become the Candyman, she is also both pregnant and his great-granddaughter. Well, they do say incest is best, but slaughtering all family members is hardly an effective way to woo. At the end of the film, with the help of a bunch of her pre-teen ghetto students, she manages to get rid of her unwanted suitor, the action taking place in some old, collapsing slave quarters literally full of skeletons.
 Final verdict: Cheap scares, bad acting, perfunctory direction, illogical story development and uninteresting characters do not a good film make.

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