Writer/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell follow up their tale of the all too real horrors of human trafficking, The Boy Behind the Door, with another tale of a young boy forced to fight for his life. However in The Djinn (Not to be confused with Tobe Hooper’s Djinn, the 2010 French film Djinns or a host of others) the threat is a supernatural one.
After the death of his mother (Tevy Poe, Redwood Massacre: Annihilation) Dylan (Ezra Dewey, Everything Before Us, The Boy Behind the Door) a mute twelve-year-old and his radio DJ father Michael (Rob Brownstein, At the Devil’s Door, Straight Outta Compton) relocate to a new home. One that, in true horror movie fashion, the previous occupant died in.
While looking around his new home he, again in keeping with genre traditions, finds a copy of The Book of Shadows which contains a spell to conjure a Djinn (John Erickson) that will grant him his fondest wish, to be able to speak. The fact it may cost him his soul isn’t about to stop him.
While this does involve a djinn and a wish, The Djinn isn’t another Wishmaster clone like the recent Conjuring the Genie aka Devil Djinn. It’s much more like My Soul to Keep, another supernatural cat and mouse film that pits a preteen boy alone in a house against a soul-eating evil, as Dylan, trapped in the apartment, tries to avoid the creature as it stalks him in a variety of guises including an old man (Donald Pitts, 86 Melrose Avenue) who may have been the book’s previous owner, and more traumatically Dylan’s mother.
“We made this film as a testament to the spirit of independent filmmaking. Our story is framed in horror, but we hope that its themes of strength and survival will encourage children and adults alike to love themselves despite their perceived shortcomings.”David Charbonier and Justin Powell
The Djinn runs a fast eighty minutes and has very little dialogue, much of which takes the form of subtitled sign language. The result is a very visual film, told mostly in actions, body language and facial expressions. Thankfully, Dewey gives an excellent performance for someone so young and Erickson does a solid job bringing the title creature to life in those scenes where it shows its true form.
In its true form, the Djinn itself is a creepy looking being, gaunt, almost angular in its thinness and with a mouthful of large, sharp teeth. But it’s the demonic version of Dylan’s mother that is the film’s real highlight. Looking human enough from the back, or across a dark room, but all teeth and claws up close, it’s a nightmarish perversion of the boy’s memories.
Those memories are also used to give the film an emotional edge. Dylan blames himself for his mother’s death. “Do you think mom would have stayed if I wasn’t … different?” he asks his father early in the film. Later flashbacks go deeper into it, making us feel even more the young lad.
Alternating tense scenes of Dylan creeping about the darkened house or hiding from the creature with some terrific jumps scares and well staged confrontations, The Djinn makes the most of its small cast and limited settings to keep the audience on edge and off guard for most of the film. And that includes an ending that I certainly wasn’t expecting.
The Djinn will be released Friday, September 17th in UK theatres via Koch Films. It arrives on Digital on Monday, September 27th. You can check the Koch Film UK Twitter feed for more details.