New out in the US this week, via video-on-demand (as well as through select cinemas), and coming to the rest of the world shortly, is the supernatural horror movie, The Djinn. Written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, the movie tells the story of a young, mute boy who finds himself in a frightening situation, after he summons a Djinn into his home.
In the movie, Dylan and his father Michael, move into a new house. Both have recently suffered a significant tragedy and the relocation offers a fresh start.
Shortly after moving into their new abode, Dylan comes across a dusty old book, which belonged to the previous owner of the house. He looks through the pages, and discovers a chapter on wish fulfilment.
Later that evening, when his father is at work, Dylan reads through the chapter and discovers a way to summon a Djinn. He follows the instructions to the letter, but soon comes to regret his actions, when a malevolent presence begins to manifest itself.
The Djinn is a low-budget horror, set around a very simple premise. It features a miniscule cast, a fairly short running time (82 minutes), and relies on very few visual effects.
The emphasis in this movie is on presenting a tense, unnerving tale, with the horror coming from the idea that a vulnerable child is in danger and there is no one around to save him. And for the first 30 minutes, The Djinn achieves this, while being creepy, suspenseful, and quite scary in the process.
From the moment I pressed play, I found myself liking what was being presented and I had high hopes for the remainder of the movie. The Djinn has a steady build-up, feels very atmospheric, and boasts a strong performance from lead actor, Ezra Dewey, as Dylan.
Had the film maintained what it delivers in the first third of the film, I would be telling you that The Djinn is set to be my new favourite horror movie. However, when The Djinn moves beyond this initial part of the picture, it drops the ball a little, and flounders somewhat due to a protracted and baggy mid-section.
Now, this doesn’t stop the movie from being good, and I will be singing its praises momentarily, but it does stop The Djinn from being a fantastic horror film. With a little more umph in the middle, this could have been excellent, but it runs out of steam just as things gets going, and it largely resorts to a series of sequences in which Dylan is chased around his house with decreasing levels of terror.
This is such a shame and something I feel I need to flag. I’m all for a movie with a simple premise, so long as it has enough story to fill out the run time, but sadly this one falls a little short.
However, I don’t want to get too negative, because the unsuccessful middle is largely my only real criticism of The Djinn. While this is a significant issue, and one which will disappoint some audiences, I don’t feel it should detract from all of the good work in this picture – and there is a lot of good work in here.
As mentioned above, Ezra Dewey is excellent in this film. He plays a character who is unable to speak, so has to convey Dylan’s fears and emotions through a physical performance, and he nails it.
As the lead character, he also has to carry the bulk of this picture – often as the only actor in a scene – and again, he manages this very well. This is a great bit of casting.
I also mentioned how this movie feels very atmospheric and this is something which ensures the film has a very sinister edge. There are some fear-inducing moments dotted throughout the picture, including a couple of jump scares, and they are achieved thanks to a well-designed setting, a strong use of lighting, excellent staging, and great musical arrangement.
The music in particular really shines in this movie. It helps to establish the era in which this movie is set, and also compliments all of the action on screen.
And to round things off, there is an interesting story running through this picture, which brings some much-needed heart into the narrative. This isn’t just a tale about a kid conjuring up a demon, there is an important motivation for his actions, and one which packs an emotional punch.
The Djinn has issues, and this may cause some audiences to feel a little disinterested halfway through, but for my money, this film wins far more than it loses. I can see what the filmmakers have strived for, to create a neat little horror on a tight budget, and for those looking for such a film, this is likely to appeal and provide a few scares along the way.