Fairy Tales and myth can spawn some of the most terrifying concepts, and never has that been truer than with The Djinn, a new horror film from IFC.
As most of us heard countless times as we grew up, the old adage of “be careful what you wish for” was drilled into us. It draws images of genies and Monkey’s Paws, where everything you want can be turned against you, stripping away what you have to get something you “think” you want. This is the core of The Djinn, taking the age-old concept, and making it something horrifying with smart design choices and a truly bitter story that will leave audiences feeling for the trauma the characters on screen suffered.
Twelve year old Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey) and his single dad Michael (Rob Brownstein) have just moved into a new apartment. As the family works to recover from the tragic loss of Dylan’s mother, they are working to make a new life and find a new semblance of normalcy. Set in 1989, Michael works as a night DJ at a local radio station, and as such Dylan finds himself left alone all night as his dad works. In the process of cleaning up and setting up the new space, Dylan finds an old Book of Shadows that gives the secrets of a ritual that promises anything their heart desires. There is one problem, the wish comes with rules and a catch, with failure resulting in the Djinn taking their soul.
“…smart editing, a catchy pop synth soundtrack, and great emotional performances”
Writer/Directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell have crafted a horror film that is striking even in its simplicity. With a very limited cast, and most of the action taking place in a single claustrophobic apartment, The Djinn draws you in and makes you feel as trapped as Dylan, though smart editing, a catchy pop synth soundtrack, and great emotional performances from Ezra Dewey and Rob Brownstein.
The Djinn is a movie that jumps into the action quickly, and is not worried about throwing the young lead into danger early on. It is hinted at the trauma young Dylan suffered, and how he lost his mother, but the movie uses this information as a way to dive into the fear and pain he is going through. This pain is a bitter, yet effective tool in the Djinn’s arsenal, and as the tension ramps up, the mythical evil entity is not one to leave any stone unturned to make the caster suffer for his wish.
“The heartbreaking emotion Ezra Dewey brings to the role makes it hard to look away”
As mentioned before, the film makers use the minimal setting and budget to their full advantage. It is remarkable how they capture the tension, and fear of the cat and mouse chase between the young boy and the Djinn so well, even in such a small location. Even with Dylan unable to speak due to an undisclosed medical issue, we feel for him, and his suffering. The heartbreaking emotion Ezra Dewey brings to the role makes it hard to look away, even when he is put through some truly horrific situations. It is a movie that draws on the visceral fears of a child, and while effective, could leave some wanting to grab the remote.
With minimal dialog and a smart use of setting, The Djinn works to get under your skin early on, and never leaves even after it is all over. Bargains with mythical creatures rarely goes as well as we hope, but Writer/Directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell craft this into a story that will make Aladdin and the idea of a friendly genie seem a distant memory. This is a Djinn that will haunt your nightmares and the way the film is crafted makes the trauma and suffering from young Dylan seem palpable and tragic. While not for the faint of heart, if you love good horror, and want something new and deceptively horrifying, give The Djinn a watch, just be careful what you wish for.