Written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, a mute boy is trapped in his apartment with a sinister monster when he makes a wish to fulfil his heart’s greatest desire. Starring: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, John Erickson and Donald Pitts.
It’s not often these days that horror films go down the good old fashioned supernatural route, it’s a style that’s rooted in patience and an elegant simplicity, when audiences are so often wanting shocking or violent, so it’s a pleasure to see Charbonier and Powell revisit it. It holds such a fantastic atmosphere, its use of silence draws you in and it’s conservative about how it introduces these monsters and lets the focus always remain on Dylan (Dewey). Although don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not a strong impact, the way that it holds back, makes the moments when it doesn’t all the more effective. It’s such a more satisfying viewing experience, to not have everything thrown at you at once with transparent attempts at awe, it takes its time and it keeps you hanging in the balance, on the edge of your seat while it does. Charbonier and Powell’s direction has a fantastic fluidity to it, it makes brilliant use of the relatively small space that it has to operate in. The way that they move the camera sincerely emphasises the suspense.
Their writing work is similarly well done, principally from their story being an exploration of both the supernatural and of past trauma. You rarely ever have this sort of story about facing your inner demons and past with such a young character, it’s opening up about a child’s perspective of such traumas. It also creates a very interesting character in Dylan, he’s damaged by the loss of his mother, feeling responsible because of his disability but he’s also a truly resourceful, resilient kid. You get the best of both worlds, he can emotionally explore his issues without being a wreck, there’s a wonderful balance to that which feels fresh. The progression of the story is perfect to keep you on edge, the suspense is consistent throughout, it’s clever in the way it injects small amounts of violence in just the right way to keep you hooked but is never excessive or gorey.
Given that so much of the film rests on the shoulders of Ezra Dewey, he does an amazing job for such a young actor. Taking in the film as a whole, there’s not that much you learn about his character and yet, it doesn’t matter at all because he’s such a compelling presence. He has to bring a sincere emotional experience to this performance, given that there’s a lot of loss and grief to explore but he manages that extremely well. Rob Brownstein’s performance is relatively brief but the father, son relationship that he creates with Dewey is very sweet and the connection they build is touching.
The Djinn is a throwback to classic supernatural films, it’s patient, gripping and satisfying. It’s not all about shocking audiences or throwing violence in your face, it creates a genuine suspense and tension that keeps you hooked until the credits roll. Ezra Dewey gives a performance beyond his years, there’s an emotional maturity in his exploration of loss and guilt that’s moving to watch. It’s eery and scary with sharp direction and a simple elegance that’s reminiscent of old-school horror films.