Undersung Women in Horror Month Day 8: Octavia Tarrant

To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.

Today I’m celebrating Octavia Tarrant from the 1995 Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, the first sequel to 1992’s Candyman. Octavia is unlike anyone I have listed this month so far. Most of the characters I’m highlighting are admirable and even heroic in ways that seems to fly under the radar. Octavia is…not that. Octavia is on this list because I find this character to be unintentionally hilarious.

Octavia is what happens when you drop Claudette from Tommy Wiseau’s The Room into a serious horror film.

When we meet Octavia, she is mentioning how she has been diagnosed with cancer – a subplot that keeps getting brought up by Octavia, but serves no discernable purpose in the narrative. She mostly likes to point this out by making very dramatic statements about her impending death in the form of off-hand statements that are also meant to make her sound stoic.

“Dr Lewis thinks I’m dyin’ of cancer. Says it doesn’t make a difference what I do. You know the only thing I regret? I never had a chance to grow out the grey.”

Octavia Tarrant in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

She also has an obvious crush on her son-in-law as evident from the way she looks him up and down when he brings her a cup of coffee to sooth her nerves. After taking a sip she makes this comment to his wife Annie aka her daughter:

“He’ll make a great father someday. Course, I’ll be food for the worms by then. I’d like a winter funeral – especially with this climate.”

Octavia Tarrant in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Of course, Octavia has been harboring a family secret that comes to light by the end of the film. Her refusal to admit that Daniel Robitaille aka Candyman is her great-grandfather is ultimately her undoing.

Indigestion or gutted by a hook? You decide.

This revelation of her blood ties to Candyman also adds some less humorous but interesting nuance to Octavia’s character. She is a typical aged Southern belle who seems nice enough on the surface, but whose nice facade covers a deep sense of shame at her mixed race ancestry. After Daniel Robitaille died, his lover Caroline (Octavia’s great-grandmother) made the decision to pass her grandmother as white. Her great-grandmother’s decision to hide that lineage is what led Octavia to the many privileges she experiences now, and her husband’s refusal to stop digging into her lineage caused a rift between them. Octavia’s inability to reconcile with this serves as one of the more interesting commentaries on race and specifically white privilege in this particular sequel.

So while I don’t want to say “hats off” to Octavia, I’ll say hats off to Veronica Cartwright for chewing scene like nobody’s business in this movie, and that I appreciate Octavia making me laugh and also making me think.

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