Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (director)
22 July 2021 (released)
Since the publication of the short story and its adaption to film, Clive Barker’s and Bernard Rose’s Candyman respectively have sustained a binary presence and reverence. Part of that is the myth of the urban myth of which it has become the standard bearer for the sub-genre. As a sub-genre that is almost invariably set in cities it is the go-to for those wanting to explore horror and social issues. Candyman tapped into that, as has this French film Kandisha which also draws on Moroccan folk-lore.
It’s the lazy summer holidays in the banlieues and three friends Bintou (Suzy Bemba), Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) and Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) are passing the time working and lounging or combining the two. Their diverse backgrounds provide a rich well for their banter which cascades into their circle of friends.
It’s a friendship based on respect but also on their artistic skills that they channel into their graffiti on an apartment block that is awaiting demolition. It’s a relief from the day-to-day grind as they dance and spray; its free expression while they bond around music and art.
None have ideal home lives though living in or around the complex that has seen better days they are part of a community where everyone knows their business, with friendships and relationships blurring. One such is Amélie and Farid (Brahim Hadrami) whose failed relationship leads to a drunk Farid assaulting Amélie. Traumatised and frustrated that no action was likely to be taken Amélie summons the multi-racial demon/jinn hybrid Kandisha (Meriem Sarolie) whose myth the friends had stumbled over in the block.
Farid dies but they have unleashed a force that has no qualms about killing anyone as long as they are male.
There’s a tangle of horror, faith and social threads in Kandisha that writer/directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury juggle remarkably well so that one doesn’t outweigh the other. The horror is fantastical and brutal; Kandisha’s hooves stomping punishments that are ingrained and given the circumstances of her creation, somewhat understandable.
All sympathy is lost however when the trios’ friends start getting bumped of for no reason other than they are male. The recourse to an Islamist exorcist requires a level and leap of faith that maybe is beyond them.
The strength of the film is in the performances of Lamusse, Bemba and Saadi establishing that their friendship is not just buddy, buddy, nicey, nicey. The language is at times coarse and they don’t hold back with the racial banter knowingly cutting each other deeply. It’s the sign of a true friendship though maybe a shade idealistic to put forward as a typical given France’s deeply divided and unequal society.
Kandisha is now available on Shudder.