'Candyman' reaches through the looking glass for horror

March 17, 1995|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

"Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh" is a just-better-than-routine horror sequel that watches in chilly admiration as some sort of apparition steps out of mirrors and performs atrocities on the unwary.

What distinguishes it above the usual slasher-gunk of the early ,, '80s is merely the fact that it imposes upon the standard structure a racial-historical meaning that grandly aims to achieve metaphorical meaning.

The "sin" underlying "Candyman" is racism, which, the movie suggests, will never leave the American consciousness and will haunt the nation forever. Believe it or not, that's up to you; it's a pretty effective platform on which to build a horror movie.

The first film and the press notes for the sequel explain clearly what this movie does not. In the 1890s, an educated, artistic son of a slave, Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), falls in love with a white aristocrat's daughter as he paints her portrait. For his efforts, the white racists of New Orleans concoct an especially appalling death, and it's an account of that atrocity toward which, unsettlingly, the movie teasingly builds.

So tortured was Daniel's death that somehow his soul entered his lover's mirror. Don't ask me why, I'm only a movie critic. Trapped in a mirror universe, he wanders the Earth, stepping out from behind the glass to gut anybody stupid enough to look in a mirror and say "Candyman" five times.

This film is set in New Orleans, and it follows the haunted, ravaged survivors of that original white family as, apparently, Candyman comes home for revenge. The central character is Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan), who must watch as her father, her brother, and her mother are in one horrible way or another ripped up by or as a consequence of Candyman. It isn't pretty, but it's gripping.

"Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh"

Starring Kelly Rowan and Tony Todd

Directed by Bill Condon

Released by Propaganda Films

Rated R (Extreme violence)

**

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