The Movie Waffler Interview - THE DJINN Directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell | The Movie Waffler

Interview - THE DJINN Directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell

the djinn
Charbonier and Powell discuss their intense new horror movie.

Interview by Eric Hillis

The Djinn follows a mute 12-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

We spoke to The Djinn's co-directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell.

David Charbonier and Justin Powell

Hey guys, I really enjoyed The Djinn so I'm certainly glad you became creative collaborators. How was the Charbonier/Powell duo originally formed?

Thank you so much for the kind words. We’re very happy you enjoyed the movie. The two of us are actually lifelong friends. We’ve known each other since kindergarten and have been pretty much inseparable ever since. One of the things we bonded over most growing up was movies (specifically horror movies). Teaming up to write and direct was just a natural extension of our friendship.

I'm always curious as to how co-directors collaborate. Sometimes one half will focus on the actors while the other looks after the visuals, while other times the duties are shared equally. How does it work in your case?

In our case everything is shared pretty evenly. We’re very meticulous planners so we spend as much time as possible figuring out everything we can prior to production. By the time we’re shooting, we’re already on the same page working on a collective vision together. That said, every production has a few fires so we’re able to divide and conquer if necessary.

I was very impressed with the visual storytelling in The Djinn, particularly in how well you conveyed the geography of the single location. Did telling a story that's largely free of dialogue present any extra challenges?

We believe very strongly in the philosophy that filmmaking is a visual medium, so we naturally tend to tell our stories with very little dialogue. In this case, having a story that’s largely free of dialogue actually made our lives easier since we were shooting without permits in a quiet apartment complex. Shooting in silence helped us stay under the radar.

The movie is set in the early '90s. I'm assuming this is to erase the problems that the conveniences of modern communications technology like cellphones and the internet might have presented, or was there a more specific reason for setting it in this period?

This definitely helped us avoid modern technology, but in truth, we simply love movies that are set in the '80s and '90s. Those are the films we grew up with and bonded over so we’ve always wanted to tell stories from that era. With this, we really wanted to create an old school horror-fantasy, so that lent itself well to our love of the early '90s.

While The Djinn plays entirely fresh, it did make me think of a couple of films like Candyman (reciting an incantation in front of a mirror) and the French thriller 3615 Code Pere Noel (a young boy using his resources to battle a home invader). Are there any specific movies or filmmakers that inspired you?

Although those two films were not part of our inspiration, we did want to pay homage to some of our favorites. A couple of the more obvious nods include Halloween and The Thing, thus you can imagine that John Carpenter is a major inspiration for us both. We also love Steven Spielberg, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, James Wan, Mike Flanagan, Chris Columbus… Honestly we can go on for days about filmmakers we admire.

Having a child terrorised in a horror movie can often come off as exploitative, but with The Djinn I never felt this way because your young protagonist is so resourceful. Ezra Dewey's performance is key to this, as he manages to convey vulnerability but also an inner strength. You also cast him in your debut feature The Boy Behind the Door. Tell us how you discovered Dewey, and do you plan to continue working with him, perhaps like how Francois Truffaut continued to collaborate with Jean-Pierre Léaud?

We’re very glad you felt that way. We love horror movies that place children in peril – Child’s Play, Jurassic Park, The Conjuring to name a few. But we never want our films to feel exploitative. You’re definitely right in that Ezra’s inner strength and authenticity on screen plays into that. We have to give credit to our incredible casting director, Amy Lippens, for finding him. She brought him in during an early audition for The Boy Behind the Door and we knew immediately that he was a special talent. We definitely want to continue working with him!


The Boy Behind the Door is getting a release this summer on Shudder. What can you tell us about that movie?

The Boy Behind the Door is a very special film to us. The Djinn came together very quickly, but we were developing The Boy Behind the Door for years before it got off the ground. Unlike The Djinn, it’s grounded in reality without any supernatural elements. It’s a very intense tale about two children that are kidnapped, but at the core, it’s a story about hope and friendship. We technically shot it after The Djinn, but we fully finished the movie first. It comes out July 29th on Shudder and it’s quite the ride.


When can we expect your third movie?

We don’t have anything greenlit just yet, but we’re hoping to get something else in the works soon. We have a few exciting ideas brewing that we’d love to share with the world!

The Djinn is on US VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.