A 12 year-old who spends more time alone than he probably should finds a book of spells from which he summons a being that wants something dark from him. As he works to survive his night alone and return the being where it came from, more is discovered about his family and why he is the way he is.
Written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, The Djinn takes the fears of being left alone at home and the fear of being left behind and mixed them to eerie results. Adding the fact that the lead is deaf brings on an extra layer of loneliness and separation from the rest of the world that is used to great advantage here. Their work on this film creates a story that is tight and directed with a close attention to details. The film takes what it has and even what it doesn’t have and makes the most of them, creating an atmosphere of dread and fear that becomes more and more intense as things advance.
Leading this film as the sole character on screen for many scenes during most of the runtime is young actor Ezra Dewey as Dylan Jacobs, the 12 year-old who finds the book of spell while his widowed father is at work one night. His performance shows just the right amount of fear to sell the story and affect the viewer in just the right way to keep them engaged and a little scared. The film has a few jump scares, but it is not what it’s about here and the performance by the lead is everything. His work is fantastic with a firm grasp on what makes something scary and how to express this fear. Playing the titular Djinn is John Erickson who gives off the right kind of vibes with a presence that is dreadful and looming in just the right way. The rest of the cast is also good here, no one sticking out as a bad performance, giving a good ensemble performance.
To surround all of this work with the perfect images, the cinematography by Julián Estrada is beautiful and helps crafts the scenes in a way that uses the light, the dark, and the cast to the best effect possible. His work is a big part of how The Djinn builds tension and fear throughout and maintains these. The look of the film is very important here and it works wonders even when nothing seems to be happening. Adding to this, the sound design by William Tabanou is on point here, giving the film that extra layer of dread needed her.
The Djinn is a film that builds dread and fear by layering a good story, good directing, strong acting, atmosphere with great images and sound, and keeping these almost minimalist to a great effect. The film makes it look easy to do this kind of story when most horror viewer knows, it’s anything but. It’s the kind of film that creates dread and sets a tone it manages to keep throughout, making it powerful fear film all around.