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Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Rand Ravich, Mark Kruger
Cast: Tony Todd, Kelly Rowan, William O’Leary
Length: 93 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0
- Audio Commentary with Bill Condon
- Interview with Tony Todd
- Interview with Veronica Cartwright
- Theatrical Trailer
2014 saw Scream Factory diving into the collected film works of Clive Barker, with definitive releases of both Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. Kicking off 2015, Scream releases another Barker-related project, the follow-up to Candyman, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. While Barker technically had no hand in the film, it is based on—even an expansion of—Barker’s story that inspired the first film. While a bit clunky at times, the film is beautifully held together by stunning visuals and an outstanding score by Philip Glass, making its debut on Blu-Ray certain to please.
I suppose that Clive Barker would be happy to explain to us how Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is a statement against racism, and maybe it is, although it sure does go the long way around. The message may be that because slaves were mistreated, we pay the price today, perhaps every time we look in the mirror and see our racism reflected back at us…Like many movies with morals at the end, however, it has its slasher and eats him, too. If the last 15 minutes of the movie are devoted to creating understanding for Daniel Robitaille, the first 85 are devoted to exploiting fears of slasher attacks by tall black men, with or without a hook for a hand.
Admittedly, Ebert was never a strong supporter of our community. His views of horror cinema were often reductive and even a bit too conservative at times for my tastes. He did fall in love with a few films, but it is safe to say that, overall, he was not a fan. However, to deny Ebert his place would be wrong. I choose to start the review with Ebert’s words, because I think they ring true, highlighting the largest problem inherent in the second installment to the Candyman franchise.
Like many horror sequels, Candyman: Farewell to Flesh, is comprised of almost an entirely different team of creators than the first film. Stepping in for Bernard Rose, is Bill Condon, a director who prior to this film was mainly relegated to TV Movie fare. For what it is worth, Condon’s vision carries a great deal of weight, but there does seem to be too strong of an emphasis on gravitas. This seems to be extremely common to horror films produced in the ’90s. Moving beyond the ’80s slasher cycle, the ’90s represent a move towards the “serious” horror. Both Candyman and Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh are exemplary of this movement. The problem is that the films do get lost in translation. While I can appreciate the attempt to fathom a history of racial tension through horror—and while I admit I have never read the original Barker texts—the films ride the line between exploitation and symbolism. It becomes almost as easy to read the films as representations of the irrational fear of the “black brute,” rather than as deconstructions of such fears. Am I taking it too seriously? Perhaps. But I would argue that Condon does so as well. The visual language of the film resides somewhere closer to drama than horror, leaving the revelation of Condon’s more recent work with the Twilight series as little surprise.With that out of the way, we can get into some of the film’s less lofty aims. Technically speaking, the film is very well-crafted. If you do away with the fact that this second installment is, in many ways, a rehashing of the original, you can have a great deal of fun with it. While it can get irksome after it happens a few dozen times, the film has a great deal of effective jump scares. Without a doubt, however, the most impressive piece from the film is Philip Glass’s score. Striking all of the right gothic and somber chords, Glass imbues the film with a sense of dread. It is an ominous score that plays well to both the film’s interesting myth/religion, as well as history.
As with the first film, Tony Todd is excellent in the title role. With the film delving into more of his character’s backstory, Todd is given a little more room to act, but still the large majority of his performance relies on his ability to instill a sense of calming rage. He manages to embody the blankness of some of Slasher’s most iconic foes, without the aid of any masking device—surely a compliment.
The 1080p 1.85:1 HD transfer, brought to us by Scream Factory, is, overall, quite pleasing to view. There are minimal signs of dust and debris, but, free of intrusive digital restorative work, the film maintains a beautifully filmic look. Contrast is bold, colors are natural, and the image is mostly sharp. There are moments in the darker scenes where the image looks a bit soft, but overall this is not a major problem.
Scream offers viewers the choice between two mixes, a DTS Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mix. Like many of the titles that coms before it, both offer an adequate mix of elements. The 5.1 does give Glass’s more room to impact viewer’s and for that I’d say the edge goes to it, but either way audiences are sure to be pleased.
By and large, the best piece offered for this release is the newly commissioned interview with Candyman himself, Tony Todd. The main problem I have with actors is that when put to the task of discussing their work—especially in regards to actors who have moved on from horror—they often sound unintelligible. At best, they make excuses for why the work is what it is. Todd, however, is quite the opposite. He is still excited about his body of work, and speaks profoundly about the films. While he definitely has preference for the original work, and seems to disown the third in the franchise, Todd is candid about what the films have and have not achieved. When you hear Todd discuss the work, you get a sense of something bold, something radical. As mentioned, the film that I see is not necessarily the film that Todd sees, but hearing him speak of it makes me want to love it more. Accompanying this interview are an interview with actor Veronica Cartwright, and audio commentary with Condon, and a theatrical trailer. While somewhat light on features, the package still offers enough.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is far from the best horror film and is probably not even the best Candyman film, but it is still an engaging work. It doesn’t feel dated, nor does it feel obtuse; if anything, the film is only weighed down by a sense of self-importance. An excellent performance by Todd and a superb soundtrack make the film worthy of a viewing, and relevant a decade after its release.