Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the duo responsible for the 2007 heart-stopping home invasion thriller Inside (À l’intérieur), have turned their attention toward the classic Boogeyman story in their newest feature Kandisha. Mathilde Lamusse, Samarcande Saadi, and Suzy Bemba star as a group of friends trying desperately to protect their loved ones from a vengeful spirit they unwittingly let loose upon the city. Despite resumes that can be counted on one hand, these newcomers deliver terrific performances as close friends on the cusp of adulthood, but also 3 terrified kids going toe-to-toe with a living, breathing demon.
Kandisha takes a unique approach to a familiar story, pulling from the legends and myths of Moroccan folklore to craft new horrors for audiences that think they’ve seen it all. Similar to a Jinn, Kandisha is a destructive and uncontrollable spirit that once summoned, cannot be stopped. She has no weaknesses and no compassion. She is a walking, stalking nightmare with the strength of a giant and a blood lust that must be satisfied. Played to perfection by Mériem Sarolie, Kandisha is a haunting figure cloaked head-to-toe in a solid black burqa Kandisha is as grim a specter of death as any Bloody Mary or hook-handed killer.
“…cloaked head-to-toe in a solid black burqa Kandisha is as grim a specter of death as any Bloody Mary or hook-handed killer.”
Kandisha finds friends Amélie, Bintou, and Morjana hanging out in an abandoned building scheduled for demolition. Collectively known as “BAM” the teenage trio are putting the finishing touches on a memorial mural for Bintou‘s deceased parents. Afterward, while tagging up the rest of the available wall space, Bintou (Suzy Bemba) tells the group about Aicha Kandisha, a vengeful spirit that women can summon to punish men. After Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) is attacked by her ex-boyfriend while walking home, she calls upon Kandisha for revenge. Naturally, Amélie assumes nothing will come of this but when she learns that her attacker was hit by a car shortly after she last saw him, she worries that she may be responsible for his death.
Amélie’s friends assure her that he ex-boyfriend’s death and her supposed summoning of Kandisha is nothing more than a creepy coincidence. These old fables are nothing more than stories parents used to scare their children, right? But after the sudden death of a mutual friend, the group fears they have let a wrathful genie out of its bottle. Suddenly, there is a vengeful spirit on the loose and none of the men in their lives are safe from her grip.
Kandisha is an urban legend horror in the grand tradition of Bernard Rose’s Candyman. Candyman didn’t necessarily invent the urban legend format but it sure created the modern template for boogeyman movies and Kandisha is cut from the same cloth. As a supernatural baddie, Aicha Kandisha rivals the sex appeal of a Candyman and she casts just as threatening a silhouette. She also finds time for a few outfit changes in between killings, like an otherworldy spring-summer collection come to life to carry out a stylish reign of terror.
What sets her apart from other familiar boogeymen, however, is her psychic link to her summoner. Unaware that Kandisha would continue to kill more than just the one man she had marked for death, Amélie’s forced to witness Kandisha’s nightmarish acts through her Killer POV. The fear of death is completely removed for our leads, but that safety net provides no comfort. They may be free from the phantom’s grasp, but they are left to helplessly watch as their brothers, fathers, and friends are placed on Kandisha’s chopping block.
“…a perfect (albeit petrifying) night-in for fans of urban legends and supernatural revenge.”
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s talent has been undeniable since their debut feature and Kandisha is only further proof of their abilities. Every shot is thoughtfully constructed, perfectly capturing those long summer nights you spent with friends in that gap between high school and the rest of your life (however short it may be with a wrathful spirit on your tail). Practical effects fans will especially appreciate the destruction Kandisha leaves in her wake, never missing an opportunity to leave a mangled body for Amélie and her friends to discover. They even manage to fit in two (two!) exorcism rituals to banish the demon attached to Aicha Kandisha’s spirit. Candyman grumps will no doubt find plenty of comparison to gripe about but the biggest similarity between the two is that they are both top-tier horror flicks. All in all, Kandisha is a perfect (albeit petrifying) night-in for fans of urban legends and supernatural revenge.
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s Kandisha hits Shudder July 22. Let us know what you thought of this French spin on the classic urban myth over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.