Three best friends spend their summer nights doing graffiti art and telling each other scary stories. After one of them is assaulted, the spirit from one of the stories comes to life and seeks revenge.
Althought there has been at least one more film about the supernatural entity known as Kandisha (from 2008, but filmmaker Jerome Cohen-Olivar), her story is still mostly unknown in North America. Here, it is tackled by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (better known for A l’interieur/Inside and their new The Deep House that is a current hit in France). Their take on the story sets it squarely in the supernatural/urban legend realm, like a Middle Eastern female Candyman. Her way of coming to life and what she does is a bit different, but also based in similar sentiment of having been abused, disrespected, and wanting revenge. The take on Kandisha here is interesting, but feels more squarely aimed at teens. The three leads are teens from the cité, the lower budget area near a French major city, where they have lives at different levels of difficulty. The event that gets everything going is understandably upsetting and it makes for a good background to bring Kandisha into being again. However, after this, the rest of the film develops basically as expected with not many unexpected twists. This does not mean that the story is bad or the film has nothing to offer, but it’s the kind of story with some tension here and there, some good scares here and there, but mostly predictable turns as well as character development. While this film doesn’t exactly rewrite the book on this kind of story, it’s not bad overall.
The lead cast mostly sells the film here. There is a disconnect, which may be generational, as it’s a bit hard to connect with them at first, some of things are universal, but some of the ways they act feels like there is a lack of emotions being shown. The performances aren’t bad, but aren’t great either. Yes, it’s a horror film and performances are often a bit sub-par in teenager films, but given the directors and their history with strong performances, these here fall a bit flat. They’re not completely devoid of emotion or connection, but most of them feel like they are not quite on point. The adult performers, such as the 2 men who assist them (the ex-Imam and the man who connects them) are more on point and make this viewer wish there was more screen time for them both.
Now, some of the scenes in this film are beautiful, the way the cité is shown gives it a personality and sets up the film in a great manner. The cinematography by Simon Roca shows sequences that really grab the attention and add more to the film. The way the introduction of Kandisha is shown is shot in a manner that she’s not fully shown and gives her more mystery. As the film advances, she is shown in more and more light, in a more deliberate manner. This shows an understanding of keeping a mystery and creating an atmosphere that is so important in a film like this.
Kandisha is a teen fear movie that is unfortunately does not fully transcend its sub-genre as it connects mostly with the three leads, not giving enough time to those who are giving stronger performances. The performances are not bad, but they feel just a little bit off. The film has an urban legend at its base that has been explored before and that is reminiscent of the old (and the new) Candyman on many fronts, but is not nearly as scary or suspenseful as that classic. As an urban legend film, a bit more time spent with Kandisha and less with the teens may have helped make this film more interesting, or the complete opposite with her being shown and explained later on may have created a stronger suspense as to what is happening. All in all, not a bad film, but a film that could have and should have been so much more.
Kandisha will stream exclusively to Shudder on July 22nd in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.