The sequel to the surprise horror hit “Candyman,” subtitled “Farewell to the Flesh,” is a case of diminishing artistic returns but not, thankfully, a victim of the terrible twos. While there’s a degree of commercial cynicism to the enterprise (the original grossed $ 27 million domestically), the new chapter still delivers a requisite number of shocks to satisfy the core cult group that propelled the original to hitdom. It shouldopen to strong initial B.O. and looks to do better than average genre business.
The first movie, loosely based on a Clive Barker short story, was a spooky modern urban fable of black rage. The mythic Candyman was an artist named Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd) in the post-bellum South who was caught doing more than the commissioned portrait of a rich landowner’s daughter. For his sins of the flesh, Robitaille had his hand sawed off and was stung to death by bees after being covered head to toe with honey.
The avenger first popped up onscreen in 1992 in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing project and now resurfaces in New Orleans’ French Quarter in time for Mardi Gras. This time he appears to be taking a personal and lethal interest in the aristocratic Tarrant family.
Dad, who believes he knows how to destroy Candyman, is first to feel the power of the merciless hook. Son Ethan (William O’Leary) is fingered for the crime and daughter Annie (Kelly Rowan) winds up delving into the legend and uncovering its dark secrets.
The script is constructed too much like a novel, which slows the pace of the early, establishing sections. Director Bill Condon works too hard to tie all the plot strands into a neat bow. So, for much of the picture, the audience is way ahead of the screen characters in guessing what comes next.
Still, the story picks up speed as it proceeds and as it shifts into a visceral gear, recalling much of the flash and excitement of the earlier film. The alacrity also goes a long way to smooth much of the ill-defined, bordering-on-unseemly attitudes expressed about race and misogyny.
Todd again plays the towering, righteous ghoul with a disarming degree of dignity. He also stands head and shoulders above a cast largely composed of nondescript leads and one-dimensional supporting parts. Apart from Todd, the star of the vehicle is the premise, and secondarily, the eerie locales and scare tactics.
Tech credits are extremely smooth, with camerawork and production design elegantly meshed. However, flashback re-creations of the title character’s 19th century roots stand out in sharp contrast as clunky and archly melodramatic. They seem no more than window dressing and an awkward method of expanding pic’s running time to a conventional length.