Let’s play hide and seek.
The Djinn is a new horror film from David Charbonier and Justin Powell. We follow Dylan (Ezra Dewey), who is struggling with the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide. Dylan is also mute and thinks that his disability may have been part of the reason why his mother chose to “leave them.” Dylan’s picture-perfect father Rob (Michael Jacobs) has to leave Dylan alone while he goes to work. While away, Dylan summons a Djinn to grant him a voice from the Books of Shadows, which you’d think the home inspector would have found. Once the Djinn is summoned, Dylan must hide from it until the stroke of midnight to get his wish.
We end up with a supernatural Home Alone.
The new apartment is small, and we’ll become intimately familiar with it before the credits roll. Dylan must hide from the Djinn, who seems to be trying to kill him (the logic behind the wish granting and the process of it is a bit murky.) We are given the lore in a piecemeal fashion, and it seems odd that the information about this particular spell is split within the book for Dylan for find later.
This is the type of movie I wanted to root for. A small independent horror with a strong lead and a nice claustrophobic setting. The ideas here are working well enough, but the film never really takes off. Dylan must outsmart the Djinn in increasingly (violent) slapstick fashion. Whether it is a pair of scissors or a can of bug spray, the Djinn isn’t having a great time.
The problem with this movie is that we end up with sort of a cycle of events where Dylan has to hurt or outsmart the Djinn and run the clock out a little bit more. After some time, the Djinn reappears and the cycle repeats. The intensity of these encounters peaks with the first one as Dylan must quickly escape a bathroom and do whatever he can. After that one, well, we kind of know what is coming.
The film is a little too telegraphed in what it will do. There isn’t enough departure from other similar films for this one to surprise us with its story.
For new filmmakers, this one has a lot going for it. The film quality works, the sound is excellent including some jamming 80s hits, and the acting is strong. Ezra Dewey carries the film and gives a strong performance. He is able to keep us with him without saying a word. For someone so young this is impressive—hopefully he continues to impress in future work.
“The film is good, but…” will sum up most reviews. It does a lot of things right but doesn’t do anything spectacular enough to stand out. Some late narrative forced stupid decisions from Dylan wreck suspense and drag the finale out (seriously, he’s smart the whole movie why would he suddenly make dumb choices like running towards the Djinn?).
For a slice of derivative genre horror, you could do worse, but you could do better.