Friday, May 14, 2021

'The Djinn' Is A Horror Tonic

I'll skip that bedtime story tonight, thanks

Horror movies have a lot in common with fairy tales. In some of the best of both you will find storytelling conventions centered on morality, and how horrible things can happen to even those who set out with the best of intentions. And of course, some of the most popular fairy tales in their original forms are also the most horrifying.

At its heart, The Djinn is a fairy tale about a boy who makes a wish, and suffers the consequences. Watching it brought to mind such 1970's and '80's horror classics as Trilogy of Terror, The Evil Dead, Phantasm, and Poltergeist. Its late 1980's setting (which seems primarily picked so as to avoid the modern advantages that cell phones and computers would lend to the story) certainly has a lot to do with that, as does its synthy score. 

But I could also see the influence classic horror had on the writing and directing team of David Charbonier and Justin Powell, who insert plot elements centered on incantations read from a mysterious book (horror movie lesson number one: don't ever do that), and being trapped in a house with malevolent creatures that can sometimes look very human (horror movie lesson number two: they never are, so don't be fooled). 

The Djinn wouldn't work as well as it does without Ezra Dewey as Dylan, the kid at the center of the story. Dylan is recovering from several losses, including the loss of his own speaking voice. When he finds a mysterious book in the closet of his new house, a book that includes a spell that will make a wish come true, he knows just what to wish for.

Dewey is a captivating young actor and he handles being in every moment of the movie with the skill of a veteran. In fact, he's so compelling, it becomes a little tough to watch him suffer through some of the trauma he's put through in the course of the story. If I have any complaint about the movie, it's that Dylan's night of horror goes on just a tad too long. When horror wallows in the pain of its moralistic lessons, it can branch off into the realm of torture porn. Thankfully, The Djinn ultimately does show some restraint, landing back in the realm of fairy tales, though probably not the kind you'd want to tell your kid at bedtime.

The Djinn is now showing in select theaters, and can also be rented on most VOD platforms

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