THE DJINN, written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, is a thriller that snatches you from beginning to end. Trapped alone with a Djinn he summoned, young Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey) finds out just how far he’ll go to survive.
THE DJINN opens with Dylan and his father (Rob Brownstein) getting settled into a new place. It’s a modest apartment, something perfect for the two of them who are on their own. It feels immediately like they’re trying to make the best of a new situation. Dylan’s father signs to him, asking a simple question and thus setting the stage for the entire movie. Dylan is mute. He’s loved and cared, for but he and his father are grieving the loss of his mother (Tevy Poe). We get pieces of flashbacks in the beginning to her crying in the kitchen but, before we see what ultimately happens with her, it ends as a barrier that Dylan can’t get over.
While unpacking Dylan discovers a book in the closet. Unassuming with bits of writing on it in a different language, he opens it up as an inquisitive child would. He turns the pages until he gets to a page that claims it can grant him his deepest desires. The only catch is that it will unleash a Djinn that he has to face to get what he wants. When his father leaves, Dylan performs the spell and, from that point on, the film becomes edge-of-your-seat levels of frightening.
THE DJINN does an excellent job of pacing and not falling into the easy trap of suspending incredible amounts of belief. Dylan is smart and, though it’s a simple apartment, Charbonier and Powell do a lot with utilizing the different areas. The one thing I appreciated is how smart Dylan is in this movie. There are tons of ways to go about the cat and mouse game in horror films. I love a battle of wits and this was that. Every move Dylan decided on made sense. It didn’t always work, but that’s a good thing. Sometimes you can do everything right and things still don’t turn out how you’d expect them to.
Throughout the film, Dylan and The Djinn are battling for opposites. Dylan just wants a voice that he’s never had and The Djinn wants to collect another soul. Throughout the tense battle between them, Dylan keeps having flashbacks to his mother’s death. Each time we get a clearer picture of what happens to her and why Dylan so desperately wants a voice. A few points before he decides to unleash the Djinn, he asked his father if he had been different would things be different?
The Djinn is the physical manifestation of the shame and grief this poor little boy feels. Ezra Dewey‘s Dylan is just trying to make sense of his new life with his father as they process the emotions that come with a traumatic loss. In his quest to try and make things right, he unleashes a hell on himself, like people who suffer loss and blame themselves do. “If I only could have done this!” or “If I could have just said something, maybe things would be different,” are a couple of the main ways the tortured stay that way.
Dylan bottled up in his home and facing all of this makes THE DJINN a heartfelt horror film. There are several points where you’re scared because of the monster lurking inside of the house trying to kill Dylan and also scared to see if Dylan can find any bit of peace.
THE DJINN is shot well, edited to perfection, and the music hits all the right notes. It’s a film that scares you into self-reflection. Would you face a Djinn to correct something you felt is the most traumatic experience in your life? If you don’t have the answer to that question, it’s OK. For now, watch THE DJINN and be prepared to face your fears.
IFC Midnight will release THE DJINN on May 14, 2021, in select theaters, on Digital, and on-demand.