Horror Movie Reflections: Candyman & Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

By Max Woerner Chase

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My wife and I have been watching a bunch of horror movies lately, and some of those horror movies have been sequels. Now, it's kind of trite to point out when a piecemeal franchise, like a lot of horror series, ends up with continuity glitches. (There's also what happened with Friday the 13th, a series that had so many time skips, a fan timeline puts a movie released before I was born, as taking place when I was in middle school.)

But that's not what I want to talk about now. We saw Candyman, and just recently saw Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, and I was really struck by how, there was nothing egregious going on with narrative continuity, but in terms of continuity of style, it was amazingly different. It's as if it's a sequel in terms of story, but not a spiritual successor.

Candyman focuses on a graduate student who investigates an urban legend, gets repeatedly in over her head, has strained relationships with her husband and the people she interviews, reversals, betrayals, problems outside of the supernatural elements, and for most of the movie, it would not be inconsistent to suppose that she's actually just hallucinating everything that happens. In terms of cinematography, Candyman also has establishing shots from high up, which is perhaps an obvious thing to do when Philip Glass is doing your soundtrack, but it works.

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh is about a schoolteacher who has a great life, except for having to deal with her brother, who is seemingly crazy, but only because the Candyman keeps killing people. Sometimes people aren't happy to see her, but then someone else shows up and smooths things over. Instead of aerial shots, we get parades, because it's Mardi Gras, because it's in New Orleans. Pretty much every problem in Anne's life traces back to the Candyman in some way. While Helen never really convinced anyone who didn't already believe in the Candyman, Anne gets bailed out at one point because he killed a man on camera, very obviously. When the Candyman was doing stuff while not showing up on camera in Candyman, he was making Helen look crazy. When the Candyman did stuff while not showing up on camera in Farewell to the Flesh, it's just like, well, I guess ghosts are real. Anne still gets blamed for some of the murders, but given that some of them obviously involved supernatural strength, it's not entirely clear why.

I'm not sure about this, but I also feel like Farewell to the Flesh was way more willing to move away from Anne than Candyman was Helen. Candyman was mostly Helen doing something, or people reacting to Helen. Farewell to the Flesh flashed back to the death of Daniel Robitaille, seemingly whenever it felt like it. It kind of felt like Farewell to the Flesh was treating the mythos as an end rather than a means.

All in all, I'm just wondering what happened here, exactly. Did the fact that the production staff differed some between movies mean that the idea of what made the first movie really interesting was lost, and so the style of the sequel was in some sense uncorrelated with the first movie? I think that seems likely, and mostly I just think that's kind of a shame.

(I should maybe figure out a topic schedule that would let me develop ideas like this a bit more, maybe decide later to not post at such a breakneck pace, but the problem is, I still want to go this fast.)