Horror fans who grew up in the '90s know that although Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees haunted the mainstream, the real terror came from saying “Candyman” five times in a bathroom mirror. Adapted from a short story by Clive Barker, Candyman is a gothic-style horror film that parses the nature of urban legends and their relationship to Black culture while refusing to find easy answers in the urban sprawl of Chicago.
The success of the film led to two sequels, each one less successful than the last, not only monetarily but also in their ability to say something important and real in the same way as the initial film. Neither sequel drops the concept of Candyman appearing after saying his name into a mirror, although the explanation for this becomes progressively more difficult to understand.
Even though the final film of the series was rightfully sent straight to DVD, it’s worth watching for the same reasons someone would watch Freddy vs. Jason or any other so-bad-it's-good movie. With talk of a new Candyman on the horizon, it's time to break out the popcorn and rediscover where the character came from and how far he fell.
Some Critics Found ‘Farewell To The Flesh’ Inadvertently RacistPhoto: Candyman 2: Farewell To The Flesh / Gramercy Pictures
Many critics of Farewell to the Flesh noted that the film lacked the cultural nuance and sensitivity of its predecessor, but there were some who found the sequel and its New Orleans setting to be inadvertently racist. While the first film shows Madsen’s character struggling to gain access to a Black community, the main character of the sequel is immediately allowed into the community and even thanked by many of the people she encounters. It follows many of the same beats as the now oft-criticized white savior trope.
It is unlikely that anyone working on Farewell to the Flesh went into the production with ill intentions, but the way that the Black community is treated in the film definitely misses the mark.
‘Farewell to the Flesh’ Is Narrated By A DJ With An Exaggerated Creole AccentPhoto: Candyman 2: Farewell To The Flesh / Gramercy Pictures
Something that viewers will either love or hate about Farewell to the Flesh is its narration by radio DJ for 96.2 New Orleans, Kingfish. Like the DJ from The Warriors, the monologues by Kingfish are meant to add a layer of narrative potency to the scenes. The deep Nawlins drawl of Kingfish makes it difficult to take his monologues seriously, however.
As the voice of the film, Kingfish lets the viewers know what the city's residents are thinking, and while these moments could be interesting, they’re undercut by instances in which Kingfish tells Candyman to “relax,” and “enjoy a big bowl of gumbo.”
The Third Film, 'Day of the Dead,' Further Complicates Candyman's BackstoryPhoto: Candyman 3: Day Of The Dead / Artisan Entertainment
While Farewell to the Flesh unnecessarily adds to Candyman’s backstory, some viewers might appreciate the character having a clear reason for what he’s doing and an explanation for how he can move through reflective surfaces. Not every horror fan wants an indirect backstory for its villain.
That being said, Candyman: Day of the Dead piles on the exposition about Candyman and the reason he’s popping out of mirrors to end lives. Rather than acting out of a need for revenge, he’s now trying to woo his great-great-granddaughter. It not only renders the character just another supernatural slasher, but it also makes him look unnecessarily strange.
The Third Film Blends In Elements Of Latinx Folklore And Tradition With Confusing ResultsPhoto: Candyman 3: Day Of The Dead / Artisan Entertainment
The third film in the series removes itself completely from the specific cultural storytelling of the initial two movies. Day of the Dead mixes the Candyman’s backstory with Latinx folklore. While this is supposed to make the film feel different than the previous two, it just confuses the character’s story.
The Latinx history provides no direct connection to the Candyman’s origin, and rather than offer subtle commentary on the life of a marginalized group of people, it appears as an excuse to film in Los Angeles rather than Chicago or New Orleans.