Written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, The Djinn is carefully molded minimalist horror. Fans of the most well-known riff on the djinn lore, the Wishmaster series, might think they already know where the story is headed. However, I can guarantee the pared-down intimate terror of The Djinn is far different than you’d expect. The year is 1989, and we follow young mute boy Dylan (Ezra Dewey) as he moves to a new apartment with his radio host father. His mother’s death is still fresh for both of them, and Dylan misses her more than ever. Dylan discovers a mysterious dusty tome in one of the closets called The Book of Shadows, and he decides to follow a strange spell on one of the pages. Promising to fulfill his greatest desire, Dylan completes the ritual late one night and makes a wish that will change everything forever: he wants a voice.
What follows through a tense 82-minute runtime is a series of increasingly terrifying situations. Despite being warned by the Book of Shadows itself, Dylan naively ignores the warnings. “Beware the djinn’s toll, for the gift that you seek may cost you your soul” sounds pretty cut and dry if you think about it, but this movie gets away with the ‘characters making bad decisions’ genre trope by putting the choice in the hands of a tiny child. Recurring imagery of his dead mother is just as scary as the shape-shifting freakiness of the signature djinn. The first time Dylan truly realizes he has summoned a monster is chilling to the bone. Effective and shocking scares hit hard, and feel very intense for an adult, yet alone one Dylan’s age.
Creepy and atmospheric, David Charbonier and Justin Powell use minimal dialogue, uncomfortable use of close ups, and a masterful performance from Ezra Dewey to sell this intense horror yarn. The young actor carries every scene on his shoulders, and imbues Dylan with personality and drive that makes the insane climax even more shocking. Be careful what you wish for!
The Djinn screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival, April 7th – April 20th, and comes to VOD and select theaters on May 14th.