Film Review – Kandisha (2020)

Amélie suffers a brutal assault at the hands of her cowardly ex. In preference to calling the police, she opts to summon a cloven-hoofed demon from the annals of ancient Moroccan folklore instead.

However, avenging goat fiends come at a cost, and for Amélie and her gang of weed huffing Banksy wannabees, the currency is carnage

Legendary exponents of the New French Extremity Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo are never going to win awards for subtlety. Their latest horror movie may seem relatively expansive on the surface but in reality, it is essentially an urban myth extrapolation of the grotesque mega-violence that made their names.

Drawing deep from Drag Me To Hell and Candyman to name a few, Kandisha crutches heavily on astonishing kill scenes and superb effects work. Make no mistake, the bloodlust, jutting bones, and splattered heads are next level gruesome in this compact and succinct horror romp.

Using the underground graffiti scene as a backdrop gives the film a freshness and the young cast embrace their roles with a natural familiarity and authentic camaraderie. Forging a believable friendship circle to surround the ludicrous central premise machines a sense of empathy that pays of in audience investment

There is, of course, the usual infuriating collateral damage that comes with the concept of a supernatural stalker that will stop at nothing to claim its victims. At least here, the moral consequences of absorbent self-preservation are not just touched upon but stitched into the fabric of the narrative in much the same manner as Fear Street part 1.

As has become customary Maury and  Bustillo run a tight ship with a pared-down crew affording them the artistic autonomy to control its bearings. Which, in this instance, means as many pulped body parts and ruptured limbs as their effects team can muster. Also customary is the erudite stretching of a relatively limited budget by way of clever creative decisions and appointments.

The cinematography from Simon Roca is intense and kinetic and brings an arthouse opulence to the B-movie bedlam. Kandisha is always aesthetically nuanced whether it’s depicting the cultural potpourri of Parisian life, the sweaty hormonal tinderbox of Summer break, or helpless humans being trampled fuckless beneath the piledriver heels of a misandrist goat hybrid from the grave.

Longtime collaborator Baxter, who edited the original Inside and the remakes of both The Hills Have Eyes and Maniac, is certainly no stranger to conducting bloody symphonies of violence. With Kandisha he is on top form, elevating the pace and tension of the flick beyond the derivative clutches of its weather-beaten archetype.

Both sound and creature design are well executed with an attention to detail and practicality that nourishes the film’s world-building and identity respectively.

Many critics have suggested that this directorial pairing has been dining out too long on the meal ticket of their legendary debut feature. Yes, Inside is a horror masterpiece. However, it seems harsh, and lazy, to judge their subsequent work, often rich in artistic grace and surrealist flair, purely from the shade of its shadow.

In terms of Kandisha, they have delivered the kind of ballsy gorefest immersed in evocative folklore and piquant social commentary that would have been lauded as a genre triumph from an unknown stable.

Horror fans looking for solid chills and outstandingly brutal kill scenes should summon Kandisha themselves for a brutish blast of mean-spirited demon stomping.

★★★★

Folk Legend, Supernatural Horror  | France, 202o | Cert: 18 | 85 min | Streaming on SHUDDER from 22nd July 2021 | Dirs. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo| With. Mériem Sarolie, Walid Afkir, Suzy Bemba, Bakary Diombera and Sandor Funtek