Friday, October 21, 2005

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

(1995) ***

In this surprisingly effective sequel we learn more about the Candyman’s history. Flashbacks to the 1800s detail the story of Daniel Robitaille, the artist son of a slave who was hired by a wealthy plantation owner to paint a portrait of his beloved daughter, Caroline. The two fall in love and begin a secret affair. Upon learning of Caroline’s pregnancy, the plantation owner gathered an angry mob to end this illicit union. Daniel’s hand is sawed off, he’s covered in honey, and a swarm of bees ends his life. According to lore, at the moment of his death, his soul escaped into Caroline’s mirror. Consequently, anytime his name is said 5 times in front of a mirror, he appears and kills whomever summoned him.

Fast forward to 1995. The film takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. A young inner-city schoolteacher, Annie, becomes the object of Candyman’s desire. Skeptical at first, Annie begins to believe the Candyman myth after her parents and husband die horribly and mysteriously. As Annie begins to conduct her own investigation, she learns that Caroline is her great-great grandmother and that Candyman has some very specific plans for her.

Horror sequels are a tricky thing indeed. While money obviously motivates the choice to make a sequel, it comes at an artistic cost. More often than not the horror sequel saps the strength and punch from the original film. For example, Halloween was never meant to have a sequel and as a stand-alone film it’s one of the scariest movies ever made. The idea that the “evil is still out there” is a much more powerful prospect than endless sequels illustrating this idea. Michael Myers is no longer scary because of the numerous Halloween outings. There are countless examples of this phenomenon; The Ring, Evil Dead, The Exorcist, JU-ON, to name just a few. The only exception I can think of is Omen II. Evil Dead II is great fun, but it’s a comedy. I think the original Friday the 13th stinks but I do enjoy the silly sequels (except the pillowcase one). So what’s this all mean, what’s the significance? Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is a pretty good sequel. There’s still no humor nor is there a heavy metal soundtrack, which is good. The killings are as gory as ever, and the story is original enough that it doesn’t become too redundant.


Octopunk said...

Do you have something to add Amazing Larry?

I dis Clive Barker, but at least his horror movies are serious ones. No jokes.

Octopunk said...

But I don't think Evil Dead 2 should rate as a comedy first and foremost. If not straight horror, an argument could be made for "gore-action movie," but you won't ever find it in the comedy section. Not at my house, anway.

Summerisle said...

No but Army of Darkness on the other hand... The problem with doing the franchises in order is that you're always gonna end on a bad note. I feel bad for your upcoming selections - Jason X, Halloween 5 & Resurrection, Army of Darkness...

JPX said...

I think Evil Dead II has more of a Return of the Living Dead kind of vibe. Ash is clearly mugging for the camera and the whole sequence when he chases his whole hand is completely comedic.

captain_howdy_girl said...

army of darknes fucking rules

gimme some sugar baby

Octopunk said...

I agree those elements are comedic, but I think Evil Dead 2 is one of those flicks that manages to transcend the usual category lines. A good example of that trick is Starship Troopers, which has this pop-and-fresh, 90210ish, high school intrigue plot running alongside these scenes of unbelievable violence. An American director would place those things in ironic opposition for a big laugh, but Verhoeven makes the elements work with each other and coexist in a way that feels very original.

I think Sam Raimi succeeds in pulling the same stunt here. If he hadn't, I'd think of ED2 as a good movie, but I'd feel a sense of loss about the direction it took. I totally don't think that; ED1 obviously has more of a certain raw intensity, but I think it's a treat that both movies exist.

The funny part of Ash's pursuit of his hand has its underpinnings in the totally unfunny, horrible notion of your limb turning against you, personified by "give me back my hand!!!" Even Ash getting gushed with all that blood, while funny, is very close to the movie's molten core, which isn't humor but madness. All these demons want to do is fuck with you in every way possible (which is a lot of ways), then either possess you or kill you. And it turns you into a laughing, howling crazy person, and that counts as scary. The comedy isn't comic relief, and that's the thing that usually sets humor and horror against each other. Ash's camera mugging may set a pulp horror tone, but it doesn't relieve anything. It just pulls you along on the ride.

Now that I've drawn that line in the sand, I will note that Army of Darkness is waaaaay over that line. I did feel that sense of loss at the primacy of the humor over the horror. Clearly the nuggets of that movie's humor are a huge part of what ED2 is about, and so it's easy to equate the upped humor in ED2 to a bad trend. But I don't think it diminishes the movie at all.

P.S. (My review of Army of Darkness will come soon, but mostly I think it kicks a whole bunch of ass.)

captain_howdy_girl said...

Army of Darkness has some of the best lines ever. Not scary but damn funny.

" You ain't leadin' but two things now, pal. Jack and shit. And Jack left town."

JPX said...

Veggie, yiou change your name!