Is It Worth It? Candyman 3: Day of the Dead

Is It Worth It? is a new series where I talk about sequels a lot of people skip, and determine if they are worth a visit or better left in the bargain bin. Fair warning, there will be spoilers in my recap, so if you just want the verdict skip to the bottom.

Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999)

From IMDb: The Candyman is back, trying to convince his descendent, an artist, to join him.

This whole movie feels like “No Context Candyman”. and you just have to respond “I guess this is how we live now?!” For all my jokes about Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, this direct-to-video sequel makes that one look like a masterpiece. Strap yourself in.

Recap:

We start with a blonde white woman who was clearly hired for her looks and not her acting talent. She suddenly wake up in the middle of the night in crop top and panties because of course. Then her bathroom door slowly opens and she hesitantly walks into a very odd looking bathroom that clues us into this being a dream sequence.

Candyman appears and “kills her.” I thought “oh this is great – it’s like he’s killing this silly & problematic pattern of becoming fixated on blonde white women.” I was wrong about this. So very wrong.

It then goes into a title sequence of closeups of his hook, set to music that sounds like you are waiting for a Comcast representative but they are experiencing a higher than normal call volume. The music being composed by a different person instantly breaks the sense of this truly being an additional Candyman movie. Philip Glass’s music is so Gothic and hypnotic that without it the film is already at a significant disadvantage.

Unfortunately, we again see the same blonde woman from the intro waking up, and in the next scene she is telling her roommate Tamara about the Candyman legend. It still took me about ten more minutes to realize this character (and thus this actress) was the main character. Hooboy.

Even Tamara knows that she should be leading this film instead of Caroline.

Next we get some establishing shots showing us that this Candyman takes place in Los Angeles. Unlike Chicago and New Orleans from the first two films, it really doesn’t give us as much of a flavor and atmosphere of Los Angeles. It really just feels like Los Angeles was the setting in order to write in Mexican characters and “earn” the subtitle Day of the Dead.

The main character is going to an art show that is featuring Daniel Robitaille’s (aka Candyman) paintings. Miguel, the gallery owner, is harassed by two white cops who clearly have an established animosity with him:

Detective Kraft: Looks like you’re having another opening night tonight

Detective Sacco: Everything up to code? Got all your licenses in place?

Miguel: All the paperwork’s in back, but I’m sure you guys will find some way to bust my balls.You always do.

Detective Kraft: Yeah, your kind is always up to something.

Miguel: L.A.’s finest assholes.

At the show Miguel tells the legend of Candyman, and we found out Caroline is actually the little girl/Annie’s daughter from the epilogue in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. This means Caroline is Candyman’s great great great granddaughter.

After some cajoling, Miguel convinces Caroline to summon Candyman in front of the crowd at the gallery. After she does, a seemingly deranged Candyman follower leaps out of the crowd and attacks her. Later, we find out this is David, an actor Miguel hired as a sort of urban legend hype man. If he looks familiar to horror fans, it is because he is the one and only Jsu Garcia (credited in both films as Nick Corri) who played Rod in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street!

This guy ages like fine wine. Fun fact: he is also an ordained minister now

Caroline waits in a subway station to travel home. She hears bees buzzing, and in one of the better images of the film, Candyman floats towards her from the depths of the subway tunnel:

Hypnotized much like Helen and Annie before her, she eventually passes out and wakes up on a bench outside Miguel’s apartment building. She is meant to look shocked by unexpectedly waking up on a bench in broad daylight, but she just looks shockingly blase as she gets up and goes into Miguel’s apartment. She sees a bunch of empty wine and beer bottles on his coffee table, and then we inexplicably start flashing back to Miguel’s night with – you guessed it – a blonde white woman named Lina.

In the flashback, Lina decides to do a strip tease that involves slathering herself in honey in front of Miguel while he whispers excitedly in Spanish. I’m not making this up.

Miguel and Lina proceed to the bedroom, and thanks to the rules of horror films, I bet you know the gist of what happens next.

It’s murder. Murder happens.

CGI bees burst through the window and sting Lina to death, and Candyman appears behind Miguel and gores him with his hook. Other than the whole franchise’s gross misunderstanding of how bees work, this is a pretty solid scene. I honestly think Miguel’s “OH FUCK!” before sensing someone behind him but looking too frightened to turn around is a well-executed spin on the far more common “boyfriend gets killed in front of girlfriend” trope in slasher films.

We are back with Caroline, who walks upstairs to Miguel’s bedroom (aka where the murder magic happens) and sees what I can’t unsee as a Cher reference given this film came out a year after her ubiquitous hit:

If Caroline had just listened to Cher we wouldn’t be in this jam

After presumably calling the police, a Detective Matthews tries to talk to Caroline before being told to take a hike by Detectives Kraft and Sacco. The detectives mention someone broke into Miguel’s gallery and stole a bunch of paintings, and that they suspect David of the robbery and murders.

Caroline returns to her apartment, startled to hear Tamara shrieking in terror as she nears her door. False alarm though! Tamara is an actress who landed a part in a horror film, and just wants to remind us she would definitely be a better lead for this film.

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget you should be the lead!

Still traumatized, Caroline breaks down in the shower, probably in frustration at how bizarrely tiny her tub is compared to the shower liner.

I’m sure this is meant to look like a honeycomb ensnaring her.

We get a flashback that reveals Caroline’s signature borderline crop top/no bra complete with black panties that we saw her in at the beginning of the film was the outfit she was wearing when she discovered her mother’s dead body.

If it makes you uncomfortable that someone’s adult child would dress like this in front of them – just you wait.

As a reminder, Caroline’s mother is Annie Tarrant, the main character from the second film. I have to say though I mocked Annie a bit, this does feel shitty to see. At the same time, Annie is recast here, making it feel like it is not the same character.

Annie has slit her own neck in the bathtub – that appears to be in a carpeted room with a sitting area?! And a priceless oil painting?! Is this how the rich design bathrooms?

David shows up at Caroline’s apartment, furious that he is know a suspect in Miguel and Lina’s murders. How he knows where her apartment is we may never know. I guess phone books were still a thing then? Which in hindsight, it is kind of wild people would get a free copy of a book with other people’s names, phone numbers, and addresses.

Here, to the movie’s credit, it does further develop the theme of police brutality and corruption, something the first film really doesn’t address that much and the second just hints at:

Caroline: Don’t worry, I told them [the police] the truth.

David: What fucking planet do you live on? You know what they say about this cop Kraft? He’s been investigated five times for police brutality. He likes to close the case, no matter who he’s pinned it on. And in his mind I’m just another wetback. And if he can pin it on me …

Caroline and David decide to look into rumors of a gang stealing the paintings from Miguel’s gallery and committing the murders. This leads them to a dive bar where David talks to Tino, a bar owner with eyes and ears on the streets.

Caroline goes to use the bar’s restroom, and things take a turn towards incest. Candyman appears behind her, and whispers that “our story should be as one.” And the “they” in this case includes her NAKED DEAD MOTHER WHO REACHES OUT TO TRIPLE HUG HER AND CANDYMAN!

This is obviously horrifying but also just icky all around. Not sure why we had to see her mom’s breasts.

After this, David takes Caroline to visit his grandmother who if a folk healer because of course she is.

If Shania Twain’s song “That Don’t Impress Me Much” was a look, it would be the look David’s grandmother gives Caroline upon meeting her

She performs the same cleansing ritual seen in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and more recently The Curse of La Llorona. Spoiler alert: it reveals Caroline is in danger.

16 Times "You In Danger, Girl" Is The Only Correct Response

Caroline asks David to stay the night, and it just immediately cuts to them taking straight shots of tequila off a coffee table Caroline has lit multiple candles on presumably in front of David. I wonder if something romantic is happening?

After a few shots, Caroline asks David what exactly the Day of the Dead is. They get to discussing lost loved ones and Caroline states “she is all alone” and David says “no you’re not” before kissing her. Because clearly after knowing one another for 48 hours they are ready to make grandiose statements like this. They adjourn to the bedroom, but after a bit David transforms into into Candyman which again let us remember THAT WOULD BE INCEST.

Caroline wakes up screaming, and David is missing. Tamara tries to make sense of Caroline’s hysterical talk of Candyman and a missing man named David before reaching for the phone to call for professional help. Before she can call anyone, Candyman appears and murders Tamara as Caroline looks on in horror. Caroline is arrested, but Candyman kills Detective Sacco and Caroline escapes.

Wearing a police windbreaker as disguise, Caroline runs back to David’s grandmothers place, causing someone she passes in the predominantly Mexican apartment complex to yell “la migra!” to which she she shouts back “I’m not immigration!” But earlier in the film, she told a kid trying to sell her candy “no habla español.” Which is it Caroline?!

David’s grandmother tells Caroline she must find the good in Candyman to destroy the evil, and Caroline’s brain apparently functions like a music video rapidly transitioning from shot to shot as she flashes to portraits of her namesake Caroline and Daniel Robitaille before realizing his good is his innocence and love for Caroline his self-portrait painting of himself?! She realizes she must destroy this painting to defeat him. The cops trace Caroline to David’s place, and she makes a run for it through a Day of the Dead street celebration akin to the Mardi Gras scenes in the second film. She encounters Candyman holding her mom while her mom wears a suggestive white lace nightgown and asks Caroline to join them again. Again, just a friendly reminder all three of these characters are related:

Please make it stop

Caroline travels to Tino’s bar where he told her a gang member is waiting for her to talk. Oh yeah – there’s that whole gang subplot. The gang member is a jumpy white Goth straight out of central casting leads her to a seemingly abandoned building where Daniel Robtialle’s paintings allegedly are. He indicates the Goths are now being unwillingly being haunted by Candyman. But it is a ruse! They want to willingly be haunted by Candyman.

This gang of Goths are actually Candyman stans who knock Caroline out, put a ball gag in her mouth (I guess that is what they happened to have around?!) and like all villains regal her with their evil plot which is too boring to regurgitate here.

I’m going to tell my kids this was Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd

After the Goths inevitably summon Candyman, he comes and slaughters them all and releases Caroline. Meanwhile, Detective Matthews finally gets Detective Kraft fired for misconduct.

Believe it or not, we are now at the most confusing point of the movie for me.

And it isn’t why those two pool tables are practically touching and therefore useless for playing pool

Caroline is seen leaving the abandoned Goth factory, and then entering the front entrance of an abandoned meatpacking plant we see earlier in the film.

Caroline finds David hanging off meathooks in an abandoned meatpacking plant, and somehow Daniel Robitaille’s self-portrait is here on an alter even though we saw the same painting in the GOth’s abandoned factory just a few moments ago:

Abandoned meatpacking plant
Abandoned factory Goths have staked out

Are we supposed to think this is the same place? If so, why do we see Caroline leave the Goth factory only to enter the front of the meatpacking plant? Or are we to believe Candyman set up a shrine to himself in the abandoned meat packing plant, and decided to prominently feature the one thing that could destroy him? I wish someone liked this movie enough to explain this plot hole to me.

Caroline confronts Candyman, and well…

Please try to remember you are related to one another!
Nope? Okay nevermind.

Maybe the writer was a huge fan of the first Game of Thrones book? Candyman is so into the kiss he starts vomiting bees afterwards and decides to pull his classic “show her my skeletal torso swarming with bees” seduction technique. This snaps her out of her Lannister siblings fantasies about him, and she destroys the painting which also destroys Candyman.

Inexplicably, the former Detective Kraft finds Caroline in the meatpacking plant. He also inexplicably has a meat hook, and is about to kill her as he declares himself “the Candyman.” Fortunately, Detective Matthews followed Kraft and shoots him in the nick of time, thus Kraft is considered responsible for the Candyman murders. Because of this, Caroline feels she has destroyed the legend of Candyman by attaching it to a dead, rogue cop. She is SO confident about this, she says it in a cocky voice in front of a mirror and a hook bursts through the mirror! But of course it is just a nightmare.

This time she wakes up in the middle of some grass. This has to be another dream sequence right?

Getting some real “previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on a budget vibes

It’s not a dream sequence. She is visiting her mom’s grave in New Orleans with David and his daughter. Which is sweet. Except for the part where she just passed out in the grass near the grave, and David and his daughter just waited for her to wake up?

Whatever that’s the end.

Random Observations:

  • This film has a bizarre amount of gratuitous nudity and overt sexuality, obviously taking influence from contemporary slashers and likely some money hungry, meddling producers if I had to place bets
  • Having recently watched 2001’s Valentine, I wonder if the creators of that film were influenced by this one. The L.A. setting, sleazy police officer, and focus on twentysomething women really give a similar vibe
  • It doesn’t really play into the story, but Caroline is also an artist, again connecting Candyman to his direct descendants through their interest in art
  • I love the fact that the gang Caroline and David are searching for turns out to be a bunch of white Goths. But also that whole subplot didn’t need to exist.
  • I know I dunked on Donna D’Errico’s acting in this a lot. I’m sure she is a nice enough person, but I just don’t think she was ready to lead a film at this point.

Verdict:

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh at least tries to honor the original in spirit and tone. Candyman 3: Day of the Dead has some decent moments and ideas, but it really doesn’t seem to understand its own franchise, and as a result is just a cheap bastardization of the original that isn’t worth the viewing. If Farewell to the Flesh felt like fanfiction, this feels like fanfiction replete with typos and Author’s Notes like, “Soooo hey guys…totally forgot Candyman and Caroline are related >.< but I’ve already started so just pretend they AREN’T related 😛 P.S. no reviews no chapters!!!”

Candyman is often called a slasher, but it feels more like a Gothic horror story set in an urban landscape. But this film plays as a slasher with some serious Hellraiser vibes to boot (perhaps a nod to Clive Barker, whose stories generated both franchises). Gone is the hypnotic soundtrack, the chills, and the strong sense of place. Gone is the sympathetic depiction of Daniel Robitaille as an innocent victim of a racist lynching who becomes the evil people put upon him. It is an amusing movie to watch, but a far cry from the films before it. Hopefully, Nia DaCosta can deliver on the the man, the myth, the legend with the upcoming spiritual sequel to the first.

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