Kandisha Review: folklore in the urban modern horror world
Film Review by Ashley Turner
Kandisha is a French horror film written and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury; starring Mériem Sarolie, Walid Afkir, Suzy Bemba, Bakary Diombera and Sandor Funtek.
Synopsis: “It is summer break and best friends Amélie, Bintou and Morjana hang together with the neighborhood teenagers. At night, they have fun sharing goosebumps stories and urban legends. But when Amélie is assaulted by her ex, she remembers the story of Kandisha, a powerful and vengeful demon. Afraid, upset, she summons her. The next day, her ex is found dead. The legend is true and now Kandisha is on a killing spree. The three girls will do anything to break the curse.”
Kandisha opens with the somewhat rushed introduction of a large cast in an urban setting. It attempts to establish a gritty tone of an eclectic group of friends in a graffiti-laced atmosphere, all from the same hard-knocks neighborhood. Initially, the protagonist is unclear and appears to be that of Bintou, played by Suzy Bemba, but we soon shift focus and find that the main emphasis is on Amélie, played by Mathilde Lamusse.
The build-up of the connections and why these characters matter to one another seems a bit haphazard before the gory horror begins. The initial summoning of and murder by Aisha Kandisha is a bit reminiscent of Candyman or Bloody Mary meets the Moroccan vengeful mythological figure of Aicha Kandicha. The intense and highly triggering event that leads to the first incident makes absolute sense for character motivation in a moment of high emotion and trauma. We are on this ride with Mathilde seeking some kind of justice.
It kind of goes downhill from there. We do not have enough time with these other fictional characters to be as impacted by their quick and very gruesome deaths. The motivation for why Aicha is even going after all of these specific male characters feels a bit forced and summed up into the storyline after the fact; that is until the murders begin to get closer to characters that have had time to build a relationship with our protagonists.
The attempted exorcism was one of the most creative and visually appealing scenes throughout the movie. The pan around shots, increasing sound and visual terror for each person involved in the circle, paired with building tension, created an absolutely delightful moment of terror.
Aicha’s transformation throughout the film is also noticeable and well done. The slow transfiguration from this completely veiled haunting being, to a sensual and seductive woman, and eventual monster parallels with the increasing impact and terror of each death and was well executed by the filmmakers. Nothing screams fun horror like a topless goat-legged woman in a steamy sauna coming to stomp your head in two like a ripe watermelon.
While the film follows the familiar formulaic elements of a horror film based in folklore; the story does not quite land as strongly as it could have. The fundamental building blocks of the film, the visuals, and extremely powerful acting create the hope of a solid horror film in an environment of hard knocks and strife, but does not quite come together and land as I had hoped.
Despite the congruity of the film feeling a bit muddled, I still recommend giving Kandisha a view for a bloody good time filled with gore, building intensity, and a story of powerful female protagonists facing their fears and trying to bravely undo their wrongs. Because, who doesn’t love a trio of badass females facing off with a Moroccan djinn from hell?!