The ghostly Candyman franchise has taken several turns in the last thirty years. After an amazing first entry, a mediocre sequel followed. And then came Candyman Day of the Dead, a made-for-cheap sequel that essentially buried the franchise for the next 20 years. Now Lionsgate brings this forgotten video store gem back from the dead as the 24th film in the Vestron Video Collector’s Series with a respectable A/V presentation and some genuinely excellent bonus features. If you’re a fan or a franchise completionist that hates holes in the collection, Candyman Day of the Dead is at least Worth A Look
25 years have passed since the events of Farewell To The Flesh. Now Annie’s grown daughter Caroline (Donna D’Errico) is living in Los Angeles. When a Boyle Heights art gallery owner aims to showcase the real-life Candyman Daniel Robitaille’s paintings, Caroline unwittingly unleashes the cursed spirit of her ancestor. Now the Candyman (Tony Todd) wants Caroline to give her life to him, cementing their family bond for all eternity - and he’s willing to brutally murder anyone that gets in his way.
Well, they can’t all be winners. After Candyman Farewell to the Flesh hit theaters and essentially flopped like a dead fish, the franchise went dormant. Then upstart production company Artisan got the bright idea of bringing back the infamous hook-handed killer from beyond the grave with Candyman III Day of the Dead. On paper, what writer/director Turi Meyer and co-writer Al Septien came up with isn’t bad. The great-great-granddaughter of the spectral cursed killer confronting her family legacy is a solid premise. I mean, they did more or less just do that story with the second film but family is often the best motivation for a slasher to keep coming back to kill.
The problem for Day of the Dead is it wears its budget on its frayed and weathered shirtsleeves. This is a very cheap-looking film. The best of the budget appears to have been spent on some key set pieces and visual effects - which can be pretty gnarly and fun - and feeding the cast and crew. The first two films were all about mood and atmosphere. The gritty dilapidated projects of Cabrini-Green in Chicago and the rich gothic look of New Orleans were great Candyman locations. Back alleys and nondescript warehouses in Los Angeles just don’t have much flavor to them. Culturally, I thought the Day of the Dead Latino flavor was a welcome addition to the lore and general social subsection of the city. That said, it was funny as hell to see Paddy’s Pub from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia making an appearance:
While Baywatch and Baywatch Nights alumna Donna D’Errico does her best to hold the film, she’s just not strong enough. It also doesn’t help that Caroline is a frustratingly passive character for her to play who often just stands around in a distractingly skimpy wardrobe. She has little of anything to do but react to everything that’s happening around her. Comparatively, past female leads Virginia Madsen’s Helen in the original film and Kelly Rowan’s Annie from Farewell to the Flesh are far more engaging and proactive characters. Supporting turns from Wade Williams, Mike Moroff, and Lupe Ontiveros make welcome appearances for some colorful characters. Original A Nightmare on Elm Street cast member Nick Corri turns in a fine performance early on as the would-be love interest David, but it’s not long before he’s literally left hanging for the rest of the film with little to do.
Then we come to the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. As the franchise stalwart, he’s the lone presence that’s always remained consistent. A creepy ethereal force, Todd once again delivers the goods even if the script leaves him with little to say or do but rehash material from the previous two films. His ominous stature is more than enough to hold the show together and is worth watching. It's also nice to see the filmmakers give a little hint at his human backstory when he was a man and artist, even if the moment quickly gives way to some T&A.
You’ve got to love and appreciate the late 90s direct-to-video sequels. Candyman Day of the Dead is one of those great examples of a popular brand being churned out for easy profits but given very little to work with. I have fond memories of staying up late to watch this thing “premiere” on pay-per-view and being completely dumbfounded by it. I’ll state outright - it’s not a great movie and all but killed the franchise for two decades. That said, I have to admit to enjoying it. The idea behind the movie is solid, Tony Todd as always is great, and the special effects and gore effects are pretty damned impressive for a paper-thin budget. A stronger script with a few more dollars in its pocket and this possibly could have been a much better movie. As it lives on, it’s a goofy piece of horror that’s a fun watch but far from the heights achieved by other entries in the franchise.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Candyman Day of the Dead haunts Blu-ray as the 24th entry of the Vestron Video Collection from Lionsgate. A single-disc Blu-ray + digital set, the film is pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc and housed in an eco-friendly case with a slipcover. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
Candyman Day of the Dead makes its 1080p debut with a remastered 1.85:1 transfer that looks to have been sourced from an older master. I haven’t seen the old DVD disc for the better end of 10 years or longer, but this image doesn’t look to have been given much of a restoration effort indicative of a new scan. Speckling and minor wear and tear are evident throughout. Some effects shots with the bees flying in the foreground don’t really come to life - Candyman’s entrance on the subway is an example where details are notably softer without clear definition. Black levels are decent, approaching that nice inky shade giving the image some depth, but contrast is a bit blasted in places with some noteworthy blooming whites.
But, all is not lost for this release. Details are actually pretty good. Facial features, clothing textures, and gore effects are well presented. The Day of the Dead celebration has the most interesting selection of costumes. Gore effects also pop nicely. Film grain can be a little on the chunky side, especially during optical effects but otherwise are organic and cinematic without any sign of DNR or smoothing. Colors are genuinely strong, primaries get a lot of pop - especially reds! Not the most impressive transfer ever, but still pretty good for a film of this era and production values.
Likewise, the included DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is decent enough and works well for this little film - but compared to the haunting atmosphere of the previous films or the latest 2021 entry, it’s maybe a little limp. Dialog passes muster well enough, there’s a lot of screaming so that comes through. Sound effects are direct and to the point, squishy bits and buzzing bees get the most attention. The Day of the Dead celebration scenes gets a little more playtime and give some atmosphere, but so many scenes are just in dark or nondescript rooms that there’s not a lot of punch or presence beyond covering the basics. Scoring by Adam Gorgoni gives the mix a little more mood and is a solid score on its own, but it’s not nearly as haunting or ominous as the classic Phillip Glass compositions. Granted that is a tough act to follow. It’s a serviceable mix and gets the job done.
Where this release of Candyman Day of the Dead really earns its points is with the extensive bonus features. Red Shirt Pictures really pulled together some great stuff for this one. The audio commentary with Turi Meyer and Al Septien moderated by Red Shirt Picture’s Michael Felcher is a solid listen. They cover a ton of ground without any long breaks or stops. The Isolated Score Sections with an audio interview with composer Adam Gorgoni is a pretty interesting track as well. But the real meat I found was with the new interviews with Tony Todd and special effects designer Gary Tunnicliffe. Todd covers a lot of ground detailing his career and what he had hoped the film would have been able to accomplish with his love for the character. Tunnicliffe is a lot of fun detailing the effects work - years ago I met him at the shop I was working in while Scream 4 was shooting near my hometown and he really likes to go into detail in how they accomplished specific effects and has some great stories in this interview.
Yeah, Candyman Day of the Dead isn’t a great movie, but it’s a fun one. Made on the cheap with little to no budget, it actually accomplishes a lot with what it has to work with. Tony Todd is great as always. The story is engaging even if it’s not as sharp or fresh as the originals and the gore effects are a lot of fun. Of the direct-to-video horror flicks of the era it’s fun stuff and easily passes the time.
Lionsgate, through their Vestron Video Collector's Series, brings Candyman Day of the Dead back to life for the first time on Blu-ray. The A/V presentation gets the job done, but the real treat for fans is the extensive bonus features. There's a lot of great stuff to pick through and all of it is worth checking out. I hadn’t seen this film in years and was happy to see it holds up well enough and was plenty entertaining when I just needed to watch something fun. Fans will want to pick it up. For newcomers who missed this one, it's certainly Worth A Look.