Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Kandisha, on Shudder

Aicha Kandisha is like a Moroccan Bloody Mary, but ironically, she has a more feminist attitude. She is invoked in a similar Candyman style, but she only kills men. The trouble is, she never stops with just one. That rather alarms the teenaged girl who summons the North African spirit to punish her violent ex in screenwriters-directors Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury’s Kandisha, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

Amelie’s Parisian Banlieu community was already pretty grim and they were constantly making it more blighted with their tagging. Their favorite canvas is a condemned housing project, where they uncover Aicha Kandisha’s name on one of the graffiti and asbestos crusted walls. Morjana, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, explains the legend of Kandisha, a vengeful spirit, who in life seduced and murdered Portuguese invaders. In death, she returns to wreak vengeance on behalf of those who raise her, but she also kills five more men within the summoner’s circle.

has some familiar Bloody Mary/Candyman elements, but what really distinguishes it is the way it incorporates of North African Islamic myth and folklore (Dachra had a similar flavor, but it runs deeper here, even with the French setting). At one point, the film reminds us the pentangle was derived from the Sign of Solomon, which holds equal significance in Muslim, Judeo-Christian, and esoteric traditions. Kandisha also has some of the best exorcism sequences of the last two or three years of demonic horror films.

On the other hand, the three primary teen protags are not developed much better than the typical low-budget horror movie stock figures. Frankly, the three young thesps are not particularly memorable. On the other hand, the way Bustillo & Maury present the young women’s relationships is rather smart and acutely believable. Most of the time, they really don’t seem to like each other at all, but they keep killing time together, out of boredom and habit.

To be honest, Kandisha, the demonic temptress, often doesn’t look so scary (to put it diplomatically). However, Bustillo & Maury’s mastery of mood and atmosphere sufficiently compensates. There is an ever-present sense of foreboding that starts with the grim urban backdrop and escalates as the uncanny takes command over the proceedings.

is an intense film, because it respects its traditional lore and treats the themes of good and evil with the utmost seriousness. It is a bit ragged around the margins, but it is still quite distinctive. Recommended for fans of supernatural horror, Kandisha starts streaming tomorrow (7/22) on Shudder.