The writer/director team of David Charbonier and Justin Powell made a bit of a splash for themselves last year with their first effort, The Boy Behind the Door, and proved that, even as young filmmakers, they knew how to create tension and flay the nerves of unsuspecting viewers. Proving that their first success was no mere fluke, the team has now tackled the genie mythos with their latest tension-based horror film The Djinn.
Starring a tight cast that includes The Boy Behind the Door’s Ezra Dewey and Rob Brownstein (Velvet Buzzsaw) as his dad, Ezra plays Dylan – a young, mute boy who has recently lost his mother and moved into a new apartment with his dad. Dylan and his father appear to have a very loving relationship, but we get the feeling that Dylan has moved away from any friends he had and, of course, misses his mom. Dylan’s dad is a radio DJ which often leaves Dylan home alone. While exploring the new apartment, he finds that the previous tenants left behind an old pentagram-covered book titled “The Book of Shadows”. Unfortunately, even though this film takes place in 1989 and he could have, Dylan has never seen The Evil Dead and has therefor never learned the lessons about not reading from strange books.
Dylan reads that with some simple steps, including blood, he can summon a Djinn (genie) to grant him one wish. Dylan wants more than anything to have a voice because he believes that his being different is responsible for the loss of his mother. So, the boy slides right into the summoning ritual rather than read further where the warning lies to “beware the Djinn’s toll because the gift you receive may cost your soul.” Oh, Dylan.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the genie arrives at the home and isn’t the genie of Bugs Bunny. The remainder of the film is a jump-scare, cat and mouse game between Dylan and the beast that he’s conjured. While that doesn’t sound exciting, it really is. The directing team, along with DP Julián Estrada, are able to take a small, claustrophobic apartment setting and squeeze everything out of it – turning it into a seemingly never-ending maze of horrors where Dylan must do anything to protect himself to survive the night.
The Djinn creature itself is interesting as well as it starts off very tame, mainly mimicking Dylan’s mom and dad, but grows increasingly creepier throughout the night until it’s a downright monster. Also, I need to mention the awesome synth-heavy soundtrack and the Timecop1983 song as they’re a blast and really fits the movie well.
Eventually though, the film gets a bit repetitious as there are only so many rooms for Dylan to run to and only so many places for him to hide. Thankfully, the scares outweigh that little snafu and the time is kept short enough at 1 hour and 20 minutes where that doesn’t become a huge issue.
Check out The Djinn when it releases on May 14th from IFC Films.