The filmmaking duo behind the excellent The Boy Behind The Door, Justin Powell and David Charbonier, come roaring back with The Djinn. The story is as compelling as it is simple. Months after a tragedy, a mute boy, Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey), is home alone as his dad and radio DJ, Michael (Rob Brownstein), is working until after midnight. Learning of a supernatural entity that grants wishes, though, with cruel twists, Dylan decides to bring the genie-esque being to this realm to achieve his dream.
Of course, it is not that easy, so the boy spends the night hiding from and attempting to outwit the evil Djinn (John Erickson). Can Dylan prove he has what it takes to earn the Djinn’s wishes? Will he survive? Will his dad?
The Djinn probably only has some 30 or so lines of dialogue, including a recording describing how to summon the Djinn, in its entire 82 minutes. Much of the film follows Dylan as he prepares the ritual and then hides from the wrathful magic he conjured up. This means that the visuals are of the utmost importance, as the camera angles, lighting, and set design are integral to understanding the protagonist’s mindset, even more so than in other productions (and yes, movies are a visual medium, so visuals should also be high up there, I know). Working with director of photography, Julián Estrada, the co-writers/co-directors effectively create a wonderful visual landscape in a more or less single location narrative that allows audiences to empathize with and understand Dylan’s every action and reaction.
“…follows Dylan as he prepares the ritual and then hides from the wrathful magic he conjured up.”
Of course, if the character of Dylan were miscast, all that careful execution in creating genuine suspense would be for naught. But, much like when he starred in The Boy Behind The Door for Powell and Charbonier, Ezra Dewey is remarkable as the mute child. His expressive face conveys awe, horror, sadness, and anger believably as he must figure out how to rectify his mistake.
Though in far less of The Djinn, Brownstein is quite good as Dylan’s father. In their scenes, his love for his child and wish to help him any way he can absolutely comes through. And Erickson is creepy as the Djinn, making what could have been a generic supernatural presence into something sinister and frightening.
Normally in a review, I’d get into more scene specifics to cite examples of how and why this or that element works. However, The Djinn is best experienced going in knowing as little as possible, as a lot of its power comes from how certain scenes end. Suffice to say, the film is scary, intense, and engaging on all levels.
While there have been plenty of movies to explore, the legends and myths of Djinns, Powell and Charbonier successfully chart new territory using seemingly well-worn tropes. The Djinn is scary and harrowing with a shocking and impactful ending. The acting is perfect, and the visuals are a masterclass in creating tension. Seek this title out as soon as possible.
"…scary and harrowing with a shocking and impactful ending."