Written and Directed by: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
Starring: Walid Afkir, Suzy Bemba, Bakary Diombera, Sandor Funtek, Felix Falux-Delporto
Year: 2020
Country: France
Running time: 85mins
BBFC Classification: Not Rated

In a French city, in the middle of summer, three female friends, Amelie, Bintou and Morjana spend their evenings hanging out, listening to music and working on their graffiti art. One night they uncover the legend of Aisha Kandisha, a scorned Moroccan woman who, legend has it, can be summoned to enact bloody vengeance upon men who harm women. When Amelie is assaulted by her ex-boyfriend she inadvertently draws forth this spirit and as the bodies pile high she and her friends fight to find a way to dispel Kandisha and protect their family and friends.

On paper, Kandisha is a welcome film – a return to the supernatural slashers that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s, particularly the excellent Candyman from which this film takes it’s greatest influences. With its themes of social deprivation, class and racial discrimination, and bleak, foreboding atmosphere that kicks off the film, Kandisha feels like it could easily be a cult winner. The long drone shot that opens the film, tracking through tower blocks in a late afternoon has a muggy quality, accompanied by the low fi soundtrack from Raf Keunen sets a dark tone.

The film manages to maintain this feeling of dread for a chunk of its run time, the idea that there’s not only a supernatural but social darkness bubbling under the surface; from wide shots of the tower blocks corridors that our heroines live in, to their concrete jungle neighbourhood and the racial and religious mix that comprises their friend group, it feels like this melting pot is preparing to burst. Sadly, like its key plot of a supernatural revenge demon, the film fails to really capitalise on this in any meaningful way and ultimately feels like a mish-mash of ideas that never really stick.

The most frustrating issue with Kandisha is it never seems to be able to define a clear internal logic for its main antagonist. She’s established as a revenge demon, yet she begins to kill indiscriminately when summoned, something that is only really cleared up right towards the end of the final act. There’s also a subplot that, as the summoner, Amelie should be able to see all of Kandisha’s murderous activity, however this is only shown a couple of times and is never fully capitalised upon, nor is the idea of Amelies emerging guilt at being the one who summoned the monster, again something that only really emerges right towards the end of the film. This leaves the narrative very much feeling quite unfocused in the middle half with much of the key exposition dropped towards the end where it perhaps matters less to the thrust of the plot. It also doesn’t help that, beyond the three key friends, we’re never allowed much time with the victims, making their deaths far less impactful than they should be.

All of this is a real shame considering the film is written and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the creators of the unsettlingly bleak films Inside and Livid. While they certainly bring the atmosphere of their earlier works to the table in Kandisha, they can’t seem to hold the story together for the films surprisingly short 85min run time, which ends up making the experience feel like it’s dragging on for far longer.

Still, for gorehounds there’s certainly some stuff to enjoy here – barring a couple of dodgy CGI moments, there’s some top-notch kills with some great looking practical effects, and the appearance of Kandisha is great, shifting from a cloaked shape, to a beautiful woman and horrific demonic presence throughout the story. Her lack of character, however, always prevents her from becoming a presence to match the Freddy’s, Jason’s and Candyman’s of the cinematic horror world.

The finale is also downbeat and bleak, delivering on the tonal promise of the film in a way that is sadly nullified somewhat by a nonsensical coda before the credits roll, only serving to amplify the uneven nature of the story. It’s a shame that a film that has some good ideas and a brilliant atmosphere is let down by being so uneven with both its narrative and its own internal horror logic in such a way that prevents it from being truly entertaining. Kandisha is certainly worth a watch for those who are curious, but expectations that you’ll be seeing a brilliant new supernatural slasher should definitely be lowered.

Kandisha is streaming on Shudder from 22nd July

2.5Overall Score
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