It’s summer in Paris, and three best friends – Morjana (Samarcande Saadi), Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) and Bintou (Suzy Bemba) – laze around every day, party with friends and work on their graffiti murals inside an empty building that is to be demolished. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s not that great, something that changes quickly when teens invite a malicious spirit among them.
Concretely, it is Amelie who summons Aicha Kandisha after learning of her existence from Morjana; she is “a famous legend in Morocco”, “a beautiful woman who destroys men”. After a persistent ex-boyfriend physically attacks her, an anguished Amelie resolves her frustration by scribbling a bloody pentagram and calling out what she thinks is just one figure from a folk tale– something Morjana’s brother calls “old country bullshit”. It turns out, of course, that Aisha Kandisha is entirely real and decidedly deadly; once conjured, it materializes in front of Amélie’s executioner and pursues him in traffic. The girls are shaken, but despite Amélie’s tenacious anguish, the moment of her ex’s death feels as a coincidence … until others in their common orbit – all men, in accordance with Aicha Kandisha’s modus operandi – begin to die a gruesome death. Slasher movie-style suspense builds when you start to notice how a lot men surround the three young women – both kind and less kind fathers, friends, older and younger brothers, the baby born to a couple in their social circle as the film progresses – and wonder who will be chosen next.
The most famous previous film by writer-directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo is probably Inside– another female-centric horror film, albeit in a whole different way (it’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with stealing a pregnant woman’s baby). Kandisha takes some recognizable clues from Candy: Key scenes take place in a dilapidated apartment tower and feature a supernatural villain with a) a tragic story, b) a thirst for brutal revenge and c) the possibility of being summoned by anyone who repeats his name again and again. again . But where Candy added depth to its bloody history with themes investigating America’s racist past and present, Kandisha don’t really dig into anything beyond “Oh my god, our loved ones are dying and it’s all my fault.” And although its plot is fairly straightforward, it doesn’t quite hold up; the final act, which should be its scariest crescendo, provides a lot of gore (the movie certainly doesn’t lack) but otherwise unfolds exactly as you’d expect.
However, that doesn’t mean you should cross Kandisha off your watch list. Its setting – a working-class, not particularly glamorous Parisian side that is usually not brought to the fore – is both unique and alive, and its characters are not the kind of adolescents who usually populate horror films. They feel like real people living a realistically messy life (talking shit, smoking weed, arguing with their parents, doing silly things, doing art) and the central friendship has a quality. experience that makes you understand why Bintou and Morjana would willingly get involved in Amélie’s scary nightmare. (The fact that the three girls playfully refer to each other as “black girl,” “Arab”, and “white” suggests that they are well aware of the cultural differences between them and are not bothered by them at all. There is also a fascinating subplot that emerges when the girls – who have realized that the internet is not a useful resource for demon issues – manage to track down an Exorcist Imam who has been banished from his mosque for practicing witchcraft. Its screen time is brief, but as punchy as you would like for any character that fits that particular description.
Kandisha premieres July 22 on Shudder.
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