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KANDISHA (2020)

Directed and written by Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury.
Starring Mathilde Lamusse, Suzy Bemba, Samarcande Saadi, Sandor Funtek, Walid Afkir, Félix Glaux-Delporto, Nassim Lyes, Dylan Krief, Bakary Diombera, Mariam Doumbia, Brahim Hadrami, Ayekoro Kossou, Frédéric Nyssen, Ondine Stenuit, Lotfi Yahya Jedidi, Delphine Clairice, Erico Salamone, and Mériem Sarolie, Maria José Cazares Godoy, & Brahim Takioullah as Kandisha!

After her ex-boyfriend attacks her, Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) calls forth a local legend and demon named Kandisha, which wreaks vengeance on all males, including the ones Amélie love the most. Now Amélie and her two best friends Bintou (Suzy Bemba) and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) must find some way to vanquish the demon before all of the men in their life are destroyed by this vengeful, shapeshifting spirit.

Sort of playing out like a French version of CANDYMAN or Bloody Mary, KANDISHA is an effective little supernatural slasher film that also walks the same path as most A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films. The character of Kandisha certainly is an interesting looking one. It shifts from wearing a sari to a belly dancer outfit to a full on 8-foot demon with goat feet from one scene to the next, all the while exuding an alluring, yet horrific visage. While it is kind of funny that an ancient demon would have big fake boobs, this one does and sort of pulls it off during an especially gory steam room kill. Still, the practical effects of the goat legs as well as the full on monstrous final demon stage are well accomplished and all practical which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, despite the uniqueness of the demon, I can’t help but feel that directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are kind of phoning it in at this point. They burst out of the gates with the ultra-gory and horrifying INSIDE, kind of petered out the still unreleased in the US film LIVIDE, and fell flat on their face with LEATHERFACE. I’d say KANDISHA is right around the same type of quality as LIVIDE, if you happed to have caught that film in some shape or form. There are strong ideas, but these ideas are very much like the aforementioned CANDYMAN/Bloody Mary as the demon is summoned by saying its name five times in a mirror. Sure, this might be a reflection of the actual legend of the area, but since the premise has been done before in other highly popular films, one might think of finding a new means of summoning. The addition of tracing a pentagram in blood is a nice tough, but the pentagram is an overused image as well, so it doesn’t add to the story creatively.

Even with the highly familiar way Kandisha is summoned, this doesn’t excuse the very ANOES style of kills that occur every time one of the guys in the film stubbornly goes off on their own. Instead of falling asleep like all the kills in ANOES, the guys simply think they are too tough to be afraid of a female demon and go about their business until they are eventually stomped to death or torn apart by Kandisha. This is not only repetitious, but also the template of most slasher films, which doesn’t lend any cred to the film creatively either.

One interesting aspect of KANDISHA is while it does serve as a story about female empowerment—about women fighting back against men who attack them, it also seems to play out as a moral tale as this broad method of fighting back against the patriarchy also hurts the men these three girls love and care for. It’s an interesting, yet conflicting message that I don’t think would be in a mainstream American horror film which tends to be more cut-and-dry (or basic) about their messages. Yes, this could be called a feminist movie, but at the same time, it also shows that when one fights back violently or with malice against a vast type of person, that vengeance is going to affect someone you know eventually, and you might regret the actions you take without thinking them through. Sure, the world is more complex than women=good/men=bad in the world of the three girls, but through the eyes of this simplistic demon, that’s precisely the way Kandisha sees it. So, when fathers, little brothers, boyfriends, and childhood buddies are torn asunder by Kandisha, this “tear down the patriarchy” message begins to show its cracks. If anything, KANDISHA shows how any message, no matter what the original intent, can be perverted and destructive if looked at too simplistically.

In the end, KANDISHA is a perfectly fine supernatural slasher. The effects are strong. The story is not so fresh—like eating at the same restaurant two days in a row and the only change to your meal is a different drink. I enjoyed watching this one and look forward to every Bustillo and Maury flick, but I fear nothing they will make will ever come close to the intense peak they reached with INSIDE. I hope they prove me wrong someday, but KANDISHA isn’t it.

Check out the trailer here!!