“Kandisha” is not your run-of-the-mill demonic assault thriller.
No movie that summons up a burka-clad Moroccan demon to avenge herself on toxic masculinity, that depicts animal sacrifice and an Imam performing an Islamic exorcism could be. Of course it’s French and yes. it’s a bit “out there.”
The co-directors of “Leatherface,” Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, have conjured up a “Candyman” and “Exorcist” mashup set in the immigrant-packed projects of suburban Paris. It’s novel enough to be fascinating, even if that doesn’t overcome the rather humdrum deaths and the emotionally flat performances that are supposed to be its beating heart.
Good friends Bintou (Suzy Bemba), Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) are off for the summer, which means more time for bonfires, hanging out with boys at the pub, and for their passion — graffiti. They sign their “tags” with their initials, “BAM.”
But Amélie has this violent ex-boyfriend who pummels her one night as she’s walking home. It’s a brutal fight which she escapes with his a bloody nose.
They’d been tagging the interior of one battered building that turned up a covered-up piece of art titled “Kandisha.” Islamic Morjana describes this Moroccan legend, “the ghost of a beautiful woman who destroys men (in French with English subtitles).” That night, Amélie decides to summon her.
And damned if Farid isn’t finished off in an “accident.”
Pretty much everything that follows earns that criticism, “emotionally flat.” Amélie may go a bit wide-eyed when she first sees the demoness, and the third act confrontations give the players the chance to show us how scared they’re supposed to be.
For the most part, we’re as underwhelmed as the actors are when this ex-beau or that friend or relative is summarily murdered by the towering, hooved demon (Mériem Sarolie) dressed like a harem dancer.
The novelty of the Islamic nature of the “help” our trio turn to, with a reluctant rector (Walid Afkir) finally letting them see the one Imam who knows a little something about exorcisms holds our interest.
But aside from a moment here and there, we get little commitment from our star trio. What should be wrenching all along the way is mainly momentary grief, guilt or fear.
For us to buy in, the leads have to buy in. They don’t.
MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, smoking, profanity
Cast: Suzy Bemba, Mathilde Lamusse, Félix Glaux-Delporto, Samarcande Saadi and Walid Afkir.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. A Shudder streaming release.
Running time: 1:24