The Djinn (2021) poster

The Djinn (2021)


USA. 2021.


Directors/Screenplay – David Charbonier & Justin Powell, Producers – Carter Armstrong, Ryan Scaringe & Meghan Weinstein, Photography – Julian Amaru Estrada, Music – Matthew James, Visual Effects – Kyle Delso, Quinn Else & Piotr Smorawski, Production Design – David Charbonier. Production Company – Mad Descent/Kinogo Pictures.


Ezra Dewey (Dylan), Rob Brownstein (Dad), Tevy Poe (The Djinn/Mom), John Erickson (The Djinn/Escaped Convict), Donald Pitts (The Djinn/Old Man)


Young Dewey is mute. He is haunted by having seen his mother commit suicide, shooting herself in the head. He discovers a book in the cupboard that has a spell that when spoken aloud offers one’s greatest wish. Dewey then finds that in opening the book he has unleashed a djinn that creates a series of terrifying apparitions that pursue him through the house.

The Djinn was the second film from American directing-writing duo David Charbonier and Justin Powell. The two had previously collaborated on the horror film The Boy Behind the Door (2020) and before that made two short films together. Elsewhere, Powell has worked as a post-production coordinator and assistant on a number of films for over a decade.

The Djinn – not to be confused with Tobe Hooper’s Djinn (2013) – draws on the concept of the djinn from Islamic Mythology. Most people know the Westernised version the genie and probably immediately think of Robin Williams in Aladdin (1992). The actual concept of the djinn is much older and can be found in the Koran where it is a magical being that can be both good and evil. Djinns have appeared in films such as Wishmaster (1997) and sequels, Long Time Dead (2002), Red Sands (2009), Under the Shadow (2016), tv’s American Gods (2017-21), Kandisha (2020) and Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) where it is frequently seen as a much more malevolent creation. (For a more detailed listing see Films about Genies/Djinn). It should be noted that the film here does not specify any Islamic background or even explanation of what the djinn is.

Charbonier and Powell don’t always have a straight clearcut way with narrative. For example, we are not told what young Ezra Dewey wished for until the end, leaving you wondering throughout what the key wish the whole film centres on was – let alone the question the film never particularly answers of how a mute kid is supposed to be able to make a wish that the spell specifies as having to be read aloud.

Ezra Dewey as Dylan in Djinn (2021)
Ezra Dewey as Dylan

The bulk of the film is filled with a series of nightmares and intrusions into the house. However, quite what layers of reality we are operating in and how these relate to the wish are not made clear. The end credits refer to the various other figures as incarnations of the djinn so one has to suppose that these are part of something (it is not made clear what) that comes with the conjuration. A more straightforward film would have a wish made, maybe nightmare consequences that become apparent and the kid haunted by these but Charbonier and Powell seems to fill the in-between with a lot of random stuff.

That is not to say that Charbonier and Powell do not do a capable job as directors. The film is fairly well polished and they do create some tension and jumps. I particularly liked a scene with Ezra Dewey trying to escape an old blind man (Donald Pitts) pursuing him through house and Ezra successfully not making a noise until he steps on the glass of a fallen framed picture. On the other hand, Charbonier and Powell would work far better if they had a more experienced scriptwriter to hand. As it is, the middle of the film becomes a single extended sequence with various people pursuing Ezra Dewey through the house with nothing much else happening, causing the show to fall into a tedium.

Trailer here

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