Kandisha (2020) poster

Kandisha (2020)


France/Belgium. 2020.


Directors/Screenplay – Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, Producers – Wassim Beji, Delphine Clot & Guillaume Lemans, Photography – Simon Roca, Music – Raf Keunen, Visual Effects – Compagnie Generale des Effets Visuels (Supervisor – Alain Carsoux), Special Effects Supervisor – Toon Sintobin, Makeup Effects – CLSFX Atelier 69. Production Company – WY Productions/Esprits Frappeurs/Scope Pictures/Canal+/Cine+/Wallimage (La Wallonie).


Mathilde Le Musse (Amelie), Suzy Bemba (Bintou), Samarcande Saadi (Morjana), Meriem Sarolie (Kandisha), Sandor Funtek (Erwan), Walid Afkir (Rector), Felix Glaux-Delporto (Antoine), Brahim Hadrami (Farid), Nassim Lyes Si Ahmed (Abdel), Bakary Diombera (Ako), Dylan Krief (Ben), Ayekoro Kossou (Bintou’s Father), Lofti Yahya Jedidi (Sorcerer)


Amelie, Bintou and Morjana are three teenagers growing up in a rough mixed-ethnic neighbourhood of Paris. Amelie’s ex Farid tries to force himself on her while in a wasted state but she fights him off. Earlier that evening, Morjana had told them about the legend of Aicha Kandisha, a Moroccan woman who was raped by Portuguese soldiers, who has become a half-djinn. If one creates a pentagram of blood and chants her name, they can summon her to take vengeance. Amelie does so using the blood from where she bit Farid’s lip. In the morning, she learns that Farid was killed that night. In rapid course, the other men around her start to be killed as Amelie realises that Kandisha will not stop until she collects souls.

The French directing team of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury first appeared with Inside (2007), a brutal and harrowing film about a pregnant mother pursued by a mystery woman determined to tear the baby from her womb. This pushed things to a gore-drenched limit and made Inside the leading film in the movement that was labelled French Extremism.

Bustillo and Maury subsequently went on to make the likes of Livide (2011) and Among the Living (2014), as well as the X is for Xylophone segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014). They were brought to the US to make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface (2017) and then returned to France to make Kandisha and The Deep House (2021).

It is not long into Kandisha before you realise you are watching an unofficial copy of Candyman (1992). There’s the ghetto neighbourhood setting where Bustillo and Maury actually seem more attentive to the people who live in it than Bernard Rose ever was in his film – for one, this lacks the outside perspective of a white anthropologist venturing into the neighbourhood to study it, and takes place more down at the street level of a melting pot of ethno-cultural peoples.

Samarcande Saadi, Mathilde Le Musse and Suzy Bemba in Kandisha (2020)
Three best girl friends – (l to r) Samarcande Saadi, Mathilde Le Musse and Suzy Bemba
Meriem Sarolie as Kandisha in Kandisha (2020)
Meriem Sarolie as Kandisha

Samarcande Saadi tells of the Moroccan legend of the woman raped at the hands of Portuguese soldiers and how if one calls her name, they can summon her – all of which is essentially the myth of Candyman but with a gender flip. The role been changed from a Black slave in a forbidden relationship in the pre-Civil War USA to a Arab woman in French colonial Africa but in both films there is the same sense of the repressed minority being summoned forth and unleashing vengeance. Unlike Candyman, there is not the same sense here of a relationship between boogeyperson and summoner – more akin to the remake Candyman (2021), Kandisha just becomes a naked force of wrath and indiscriminate vengeance.

As a result of Inside, Maury and Bustillo gained a certain reputation as directors who can go to extremes – it is certainly this that got them the job directing Leatherface to underwhelming disappointment. It is also with this in mind that you approach Kandisha expecting them to come up with a horror film that pushes the material to the limits.

However, that is precisely what we don’t get. There are a number of deaths but most of these are unexceptional – a person bursting into flame; a contorted body left in a maternity nursery. More effective is seeing Bakary Diombera at first with his head being drowned in a kitchen sink (shot up from inside the water) and then abruptly thrown out of a window; or of Ayekoro Kossou being torn in half in mid-air. A couple of okay ones but nothing that stops you in your tracks like seeing Beatrice Dalle trying to cut out Alysson Paradis’s baby with a pair of scissors in Inside. Indeed, the nastiest things gets here is the ick moment of wondering whether the girls are going to kill the baby brother’s rabbit.

Trailer here

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