French Supernatural Horror Kandisha (2021) Conjures Up Violent Yet Familiar Scares
First Wide Release: July 22, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Writer: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Suzy Bemba, Mathilde Lamusse, Samarcande Saadi
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Writer Director duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury team up again to deliver another gruesome tale of French horror. This supernatural slasher begins with the tale of the vengeful djinn – Kandisha – who will kill at the behest of her summoner with the caveat that she will then go on to kill more of their loved ones as payment. After learning of the tale after a fun night with her two friends, a teenager unintentionally summons Kandisha after being assaulted by her ex-boyfriend who has been incessantly harassing her for weeks. She soon learns the power of the curse once he is found dead the next day.
Kandisha is a solid, yet familiar, supernatural slasher that delivers on its slice-and-dice premise.
Very much in the vein of Candyman, the blend of French horror and Moroccan folklore in Kandisha creates an effective and affecting horror experience. While it is clearly inspired from this film and others, this supernatural slasher sets out to create a new monster to fear. And while Kandisha herself is certainly a fright to behold, she doesn’t quite get there as a villain to be truly terrifying. With some tighter writing and more restraint employed on her visuals, Kandisha could have been the next Candyman or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Unfortunately, Kandisha isn’t compelling enough to stand fully on its own despite its solid production values and cast.
What kills it most is its story. The rules of the spirit of Kandisha aren’t explained well beyond the fact that six men will have to die in order for the curse to be fulfilled. The way it pans out doesn’t make much narrative sense outside of the obvious context that it is a horror film trying to scare its audience. There are plenty of great moments where the hapless teenage girls experience hauntings and premonitions, but it seems to stray from Kandisha’s purpose: to kill men. But how and when is the issue. The rules are twisted and turned so there’s still a mystery about it, but it doesn’t make much narrative sense in the end.
The teenage protagonists do their best to save the various men in their lives but Kandisha is hellbent on exacting her supernatural vengeance regardless of their fears. Thankfully, the teens give believable enough performances to make you care about their plight, even if they do often look quite sullen and lifeless before the killing starts. I do wish, however, that Amélie and her brother had more development. Their relationship doesn’t feel well-earned by the end. This leads into a downright baffling character choice at the end that sours the film.
Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury know how to craft a taut slasher film. Between great lore and great gore, the spirit of Kandisha is brought to life in a menacing way that will have you on edge throughout the French feature’s runtime. Going with a clear urban decay aesthetic, the camerawork in Kandisha is pretty standard aside from the one or two moments of inspiration that shine through the cracks via a particularly cool shot. It’s an even paced and by-the-numbers horror from beginning to end, but its dark tone and chilly atmosphere makes it an assured supernatural horror that is worthy of a watch.
By the end, Kandisha has everything that a horror fan could want in a film: it’s steeped in good production values, tells a straight horror tale, has great effects and tastefully wicked gore, and an interesting premise. Yet, it still doesn’t quite hit the mark that I would expect from a truly good horror film. It is enjoyable enough and offers a nice respite from the dreck being released straight to streaming nowadays, but Kandisha can’t manage to inch into that upper echelon of horror films. It’s worth summoning into your watchlist but don’t expect anything groundbreaking.
Overall Score? 6.5/10