The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE DJINN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE DJINN

the djinn review
A young boy fights for his life when he summons a Djinn.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Charbonier, Justin Powell

Starring: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, John Erickson, Donald Pitts

the djinn poster

Horror movies have seen all manner of demons summoned by unwitting fools. Usually it requires some sort of incantation spoken in an ancient language like Latin, Hebrew or Sumerian, or maybe you just have to say the name of an urban legend three times in front of a mirror. Writer/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell's The Djinn features an incantation spoken in front of a mirror, but the twist here is that it's uttered not in some old lingo, but in American Sign Language. The effect is just the same. That is to say, not the outcome our protagonist hoped for.

the djinn review

Following his mother's suicide, which we glimpse in a flashback, mute 12-year-old Dylan (Ezra Dewey) and his father Michael (Rob Brownstein) move into a new bungalow home. As Michael is a graveyard shift DJ, Dylan is left alone on the first night in their new home. Bored, he starts rummaging through some bric-a-brac left by the house's previous tenant, an elderly man who apparently took his own life. Among the leftover possessions Dylan finds a book of spells called the "Book of Shadows." One spell purports to grant its summoner one wish, and figuring he has nothing to lose, Dylan performs the rite, wishing for "a voice".

It seems to have had no effect, and Dylan retires to bed disconsolate. But when he investigates some noises, he discovers he's not alone in the home. Dylan should have read the small print on the spell, as in order for his wish to be granted he must survive an hour with a Djinn, who can only be destroyed by blowing out a candle when the clock strikes midnight.

the djinn review

Djinns, which have their origins in Arabic folklore, have been co-opted by many a Western filmmaker at this point, but Charbonier and Powell might be the first to make something worthwhile of the idea. Rather than getting bogged down in setting up the concept of a Djinn, they pare down the folklore to its bare essentials. After a brief narration from the book of spells lets us know what Dylan is up against, the movie becomes an exercise in sustained dialogue free visual storytelling, playing out in something close to real time as Dylan keeps an eye on the clock, counting down the minutes to midnight.

Dylan's attempts to escape the bungalow prove futile as it seems the Djinn has created some sort of force field to keep him trapped. This means the action plays out in a very confined space, and the movie benefits greatly from how well Charbonier and Powell lay out the geography of their limited setting. We always know where Dylan is in relation to his supernatural foe, which adds much suspense. When the Djinn - which alternates between the forms of previous human victims, including Dylan's Mom - is blinded, the movie becomes a terrifying ballet as Dylan treads softly around his opponent in a tense dance. There are some real heart in mouth moments as Dylan glides past the Djinn mere centimetres away.

the djinn review

Complimenting the directorial skills of Charbonier and Powell is the young Dewey, whose silent performance is immensely impressive. Any potential for poor taste in having a mute young boy menaced in a horror movie is soon dispensed as it becomes clear just how smart and resourceful Dylan is. Like Home Alone and its French forerunner 3615 Code Père Noël, The Djinn sees its home invader up against a formidable young foe. But make no mistake, this is no comedy, and despite its precocious protagonist it's no kids movie either. The Djinn plays its horrors with a straight face, and with the subplot of Dylan's mother's death it has a heavy dose of heartbreaking pathos. In this age of helicopter parenting and molly-coddled kids, it's refreshing to see a movie that dares to inflict horrors - of both our own world and other dimensions - on a child without coming across as mean-spirited. I would have loved this had I seen it as a kid, though I may have slept with the lights on that night.

The Djinn
 is in UK cinemas from September 17th.

2021 movie reviews