‘The Djinn’ For Victory: Indie Horror Thriller Fits As Strange Book Lets Evil Unleash Evil Movies / TV
For horror fans, this week’s big movie is hands down “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” – and for good reason.
Not only are the “Saw” movies one of the highest grossing horror franchises in Hollywood history, but this particular episode comes from the razor sharp mind of Chris Rock, who also stars there, alongside by Samuel L. Jackson.
If that isn’t enough to draw horror die-hards into theaters, I don’t know what it is.
Those who really like the genre, however, would do well not to let the smaller, budget film “The Djinn” – which also arrives on Friday – fall through the cracks.
He doesn’t brag about the star power or “Spiral” horror pedigree, but it’s a nifty little indie chiller nonetheless.
Directed and written by newcomers David Charbonier and Justin Powell, it takes a little time to get started, with a cranky and a bit slow setup, introducing us to a struggling 12-year-old boy named Dylan, who hasn’t the ability to speak.
(This boy, for the record, is played by Ezra Dewey, who looks downright like a young Joseph Gordon Levitt.)
Then, after 19 minutes, “The Djinn” takes off like a rocket, gradually building a relentless intensity that carries him through the remainder of his ordered 82-minute runtime.
The animated event: When Dylan, who more than anything wants a voice, finds a dusty old book hidden in the back of a closet in the new apartment he and his recently widowed father have just moved into.
An inverted pentagram is engraved in gold on its black leather cover. Inside are various ancient spells accompanied by generally gruesome artwork.
Now, in the real world, you, me, and most other sane people would immediately close said book, put it back in the closet, and run screaming out of the apartment. This is not how horror films work. Here, reason and logic come out the window to move the story forward, and “The Djinn” is no different in that regard.
Time and time again, Dylan makes decisions that will make you question his intelligence – if not his courage. Even if you’re not inclined to yell at the screen, expect to scramble things like “Don’t go that way!” or “Run, stupid!” or “Blow out the candle already!”
But in truth, that’s part of the fun of a movie like this.
The first of Dylan’s bad decisions involves opening this book, eventually arriving on a page containing a spell to summon a jinn – which is an alternate spelling of jinn, the supernatural creature from Arab folklore that we know best in the West as that genius.
To be clear: it’s not “Aladdin” or “Kazaam”.
Poor Dylan’s jinn is much more sinister than that. Unfortunately for him, he’s so excited about the possibilities that he doesn’t read the fine print before performing the wish-fulfillment ritual described in the book.
The result gives a whole new meaning to the adage “be careful what you want”.
Along the way, viewers may wonder about a variety of unanswered questions, starting with: Where did this book come from, anyway?
Still, Charbonier and Powell deserve to be commended for their storytelling prowess, especially since they tied a hand behind their back fully focusing 95% of their film on a character who can’t speak, essentially transforming “The Djinn” in a silent film. (albeit aided by a rich score from Matthew James).
What further complicates matters is the fact that they essentially confine Dylan to one set. This, in addition to limiting the size of the cast, is a not uncommon money-saving strategy for filmmakers shooting on a budget. Yet once “The Djinn” hits its stride, it never feels really cheap or particularly claustrophobic.
These are impressive things, in a diamond-like way in the rough.
As effective as it is, “The Djinn” won’t conjure up as many eyeballs as “Spiral”, but those who watch it won’t be disappointed – though they may never watch “I Dream of Jeannie” by the same way ever.
Mike Scott can be reached at [email protected]
3 stars, out of 4
INSTANTANEOUS: A fast-paced horror thriller about a young boy who unwittingly summons a sinister being.
DISCARD: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, John Erickson, Donald Pitts.
DIRECTORS: David Charbonier and Justin Powell.
ASSESSED: R, for worrying violence.
WORKS: 1 hour 82 minutes.
WHEN AND WHERE: Arrives Friday (May 14) via the most popular on-demand streaming platforms.
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