The Djinn is the sophomore feature from the directors that made an impact with The Boy Behind the Door at last year’s Fantastic Fest. The tension-filled isolation in a single space is replicated during The Djinn, and these directors have masterfully used the confined space to offer another heart-pumping ride of a film. The Djinn seeks to remind those that watch to be thankful for what is already in their life and to be careful what they wish for. A film that does become repetitive due to the one location setting, but still delivers a solid horror tale.
Ezra Dewey, who also starred in The Boy Behind the Door, returns to join the co-directors in this terrifying film. If using single space locations is what works for these two, then I’d say don’t fix what isn’t broken. However, there are moments in The Djinn where it could be argued this may have worked better as a short film. Directed and co-written by David Charbonier and Justin-Powell, the film stars Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, and Isaiah Dell. The Djinn follows Dylan Jacobs (Dewey), a mute boy struggling to cope with his mother’s suicide. One evening, while his father, Michael Jacobs (Brownstein), works overnight as a DJ, Dylan unleashes something in their apartment. Dylan’s inability to accept himself as he is may result in yet another heartbreak if he isn’t careful. Dylan doesn’t realize his single-parent life, and being mute could be much worse, and he’ll learn that soon enough.
Charbonier and Powell have skillfully written a film about a sympathetic child, who just wants his mother back. He’s also blaming his inability to speak for why she chose to end her own life, which makes Dylan easy to feel for. His father is nonexistent for most of the film’s runtime, so Dylan’s progression is the driving force for this narrative. It’s another fun game of cat and mouse, similar to The Boy Behind the Door. Still, this film’s appeal doesn’t last for long due to those repetitive sequences of Dylan running to the same rooms at times. After finding the Book of Shadows, presumably left by the last tenant, Dylan performs a ritual called the wish of desire. This unleashes The Djinn, an entity that will give Dylan a voice after enduring an evening of terror. The script probably could have been trimmed a bit because while the message is made clear, it feels like this was dragged on longer than it should have been.
Charbonier and Powell deliver some impressively tense, and dreadful moments throughout this film. This entity can shapeshift, so there’s a moment where Dylan is chillingly terrorized by his deceased mother. Several instances will make your skin crawl, but Dylan already blames himself for his mother’s death in ways and now she is chasing him around the apartment like a crazed maniac, which makes that sequence so frightening to watch. Dewey’s performance as Dylan is fantastic, and he embodies the innocence of a little boy tremendously. His ability to carry the film with little to no dialogue is wonderfully handled. A bone-chilling score by Matthew James feels in for Dylan’s voice, as he tries to survive the night against this entity. The use of sound design is important here, and assists in conveying Dylan’s emotions during this traumatic night he is forced to participate in, it is his voice.
The Djinn could be looked at as an overly long tale about things that go bump in the night, but it has a lot of heart to it and delivers an effective tale about a young boy who just wants to speak. While there is no denying that this doesn’t pack the same intensity as The Boy Behind the Door, this second outing highlights the co-director’s ability to utilize single spaces in the best ways possible once again.