Amelie (Mathilde Lamusse) and Bintou (Suzy Bemba) are two best friends part of a Parisian teen clique, the members of which kill time with graffiti and pot smoking in their Brutalist urban neighbourhood. One day, while out tagging some derelict crib, Amelie and Bintou discover the name “Kandisha” on a wall in a rundown apartment. They’re told it’s the appellation of an ancient Arabian spectre, rumoured to murder malicious men in the life of whoever summons her.
After Amelie is attacked by her ex-boyfriend, the traumatised teen conjures Kandisha, but fails to bridle the vengeful spirit from a subsequent killing spree, as the spectre sets out to slay all the men in Amelie’s life, including those closest to her.
Writer/directors Alexandra Bustillo and Julien Maury (Inside, Leatherface) craft an eerie, sinister and wickedly twisted descent into a dank Parisian hellscape. Casting penurious housing estates in gloom for a gothic/social realist location, recalling Candyman and the more recent Our House, with tinges of garish (in a good way) Argento-style lighting.
Characters are strengthened by complex dramas (pregnancy, parental fractures, break-ups, drugs and abuse) triggering fissures and conflicts within the gang and their family. These augment the scares and story with a solid backdrop for the horror to unfurl. Grand Grimoire surrealist scenes recall Clive Barker-like fantasylands while the Moroccan folklore elements and graffiti mortared locales evoke Candyman’s Cabrini Green.
The dim-lit apartment blocks compliment Kandisha (the character) like Dracula’s castle did in the Hammer classics and help her flower into a terrifying antagonist. From tales about Kandisha’s heritage to her shadows cast against cracked council estate walls, within which she lurks and later emerges to fill the screen with blood freezing tension, mad, nasty violence and spiky frights.
Bustillo and Maury’s latest is frequently creepy with scintillating surrealism and shocking death scenes bolstered by brilliantly brought to life characters and Takashi Miike-like hyperviolence (fluffy bunny lovers, brace yourselves). Aside from slightly narrative sag in the first act, Kandisha flourishes into a twistedly vehement monster horror lead by a strikingly unique and frightening antagonist with strong enough presence to front a franchise.
Kandisha will stream exclusively to Shudder on July 22.