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Kandisha (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Mathilde Lamusse, Suzy Bemba, Samarcande Saadi, Mériem Sarolie, Sandor Funtek, Walid Afkir, Félix Glaux-Delporto, Nassim Lyes Si Ahmed, Dylan Krief, Bakary Diombera, Mariam Doumbia, Brahim Hadrami, Ayekoro Kossou, Frédéric Nyssen, Ondine Stenuit, Maria José Cazares Godoy, Brahim Takioullah, Lotfi Yahya Jedidi, Delphine Clairice and Erico Salamone.

Screenplay by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo.

Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo.

Distributed by Shudder. 85 minutes. Not Rated.

I suppose it is nice to see that they can make cheesy bogeyman films in French, too.

Even though it is based on a Moroccan legend, it turns out a Kandisha is a pretty standard film spook – fairly interchangeable with many other shadow lurkers like Bloody Mary, La Llorona, a succubus, Candyman, the Djinn, the Mothman, Slenderman and others. In fact, a movie by the same title about a similar demon was made in Morocco in 2008 and starred the late David Carradine.

According to a Muslim Popular Culture post on the NYU (New York University) website, “Qandisa is a mythological figure in Moroccan folklore associated with lust and possession. Sometimes portrayed as a demon or the jinn, she is known to capture the souls of young men and drive them insane.”

Of course, driving them insane may not be enough for a horror movie. In Kandisha, she tends to kill off the men in horrific, violent ways; setting them on fire, throwing them from a top story balcony of a high-rise building, having them run into the path of a speeding car, literally ripping them limb from limb.

This ancient terror is unleashed by three diverse teenaged girlfriends in the ghettos of France. They literally refer to each other as “the black chick,” “the Arab chick” and “the white chick.” The black chick is Bintou (Suzy Bemba), the Arab is Morjana (Samarcande Saadi), and the white chick is Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse).

It is school break, and they like to spend their time partying at a local tenement building which is facing demolition. They go to the abandoned basement, tagging it with graffiti art, listening to loud music, drinking and dancing. When they find the word “Kandisha” painted on a wall, Morjana explains the legend to her friends. They half-heartedly attempt to raise the demon – not really believing it exists – and nothing happens.

However, walking home alone, Amélie is attacked by her violent ex-boyfriend. Later, with more seriousness, a bruised and bloody Amélie calls for the demon. The next morning, the ex is dead, killed in a horrific car crash. When another friend is set on fire at a bonfire party they are at, the girls realize the legend is real and they must stop the Kandisha before it kills more men in their lives.

Some of the storytelling doesn’t really make sense. For example, according to the legend (as shared in the film) the Kandisha will kill six men before disappearing. Later in the film, after five men have been killed, Amélie says mournfully that two more of their loved ones are going to die. Now, perhaps she just can’t add, but more likely the screenwriters forgot their own rules, or their own death count. From there on, the film continues with the idea of two more deaths as if one of those earlier deaths didn’t count or something.

The Kandisha even seems to change as the film goes on, sometimes covered in a full shroud, sometimes topless (in one attack she is both wearing a top and topless within a matter of a minute), and as the film goes on, she gets a few feet taller and more CGI looking (also in that same attack just mentioned, which shifts in the middle from a live actress to an obvious special effect).

It's not a huge surprise that Kandisha skipped the arthouse theaters in the US, instead debuting on the horror subscription service Shudder. It’s far from a great film, but it may hit the spot if you’re looking for a b-movie spook show.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: July 23, 2021.


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