Your Wish For a Good Indie Horror Film Will Be Satisfied with The Djinn (2021)
Title: The Djinn
First Non-Festival Release: May 14, 2021 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: David Charbonier, Justin Powell
Writer: David Charbonier, Justin Powell
Runtime: 82 Minutes
Starring: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Dylan (Ezra Dewey) moves into a new apartment with his father (Rob Brownstein) after his mother (Tevy Poe) dies by suicide. Troubled by the death of his mother and alienated from kids his age due to his muteness, Dylan spends his time with his dad when he isn’t at work. While rummaging in the apartment he finds a mysterious book left by the previous owner who died allowing the two to move into the space. Inside he discovers an incantation that will allow him to grant his greatest wish: to speak again. The caveat is he must face off against a powerful entity known as the djinn if he wants his wish to come true.
Tense and claustrophobic, The Djinn is a cautionary morality tale about the dangers of seeking wish fulfillment.
Boiling down to a simple morality tale, much like an extended Tales from the Crypt segment or episode of Goosebumps, The Djinn is a rather straightforward film set on the premise of be careful what you wish for. It walks the line of accessibility for younger audiences by toning down the grisly potential it has. Unfortunately, this can make it feel like a missed opportunity, which might be disappointing for some. Uneven pacing at times makes the film a bit rough, but once The Djinn regains its composure at each stumble it quickly corrects. One of the more frustrating parts of the script is how often Dylan lingers in ways that set him up to fail. Obviously, he is a child and children are prone to making mistakes but sometimes his actions feel especially confounding when his choices are so inconsistent.
Ezra Dewey gives a phenomenal performance as Dylan. Without using his voice, he can portray the complex emotions of a young child hurt by the loss of his mother, the desperation to try black magic to change the thing about himself that makes him most insecure, and grapple with the insane reality that he must face off against a demon or else have his soul taken. He is at his apex when he must depict the pain of several nasty injuries silently. The result is hauntingly realistic which helps set off the audience’s secondhand sympathy response.
Dylan is given enough complexity to handle the film’s runtime as The Djinn is primarily a vehicle to display Dewey’s talents. What makes Dylan such a good protagonist is his continued development. Throughout the night, Dylan must face his personal demons while confronting a real one. His desire to change not only his disability but to rewrite the script on his mother’s suicide make for an interesting internal battle that drives him to fight back against the entity. It’s clear that Dylan is intelligent and resourceful, but he lacks the physical ability to fend for himself, mostly due to his age.
Separating itself from other indie ventures, The Djinn makes great use of limited budget with superb creative choices that elevate it above other films in the market. The Djinn takes a minimalist approach to its cinematography relying on tight editing and creeping camera movements. This helps make the visually flat environment more dimensional and ratchet up the suspense. Scant on dialogue, The Djinn focuses on sound and the lack thereof to build and sustain suspense. Retro eighties music helps ground the horror as a period piece while offering excellent synth music to the terror in the cramped apartment. Sparsely used, the effects are mostly sound. Unexpectedly, the final form of the djinn itself is pure nightmare fuel, propelled by the uncanny realism it possesses.
What came and went to theaters in a flash last year, The Djinn is an effective yet quiet horror film that will keep you invested. Surprisingly tense, this restrained chiller will get under your skin more than it will outright scare you. The implications of the horror here are much more disquieting than traditional outings as the ending leaves the audience with a promise that this horror is far from ending. Plenty of great scares and a fantastic leading performance make this a must watch for fans of supernatural horror. If you are looking for suitably dark gateway horror to introduce to a younger person in your life, your wish will be granted by The Djinn.
Overall Score? 7/10