Saturday, October 17, 2015

Film Review: Djinn (2013)

Djinn (Review)
United Arab Emirates/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"...the lack of depth in the story and characters keep this film from being truly great."

Suffering from the death of their infant child, a couple move back to the United Arab Emirates to rebuild their lives near family...

Djinn follows Emirate couple Salama (Razane Jammal) and Khalid (Khalid Laith). After losing their child to sudden infant death syndrome, the couple are persuaded by their counselor to move back to the United Arab Emirates so they can be close to family and so Khalid can seize a new job opportunity. They arrive at their new home, a towering building engulfed by impenetrable fog, and settle in. Khalid goes to work and Salama immediately begins to see and hear bizarre anomalies, which she believes link back to the folklore surrounding the area — the djinn searching for her long lost child. The plot doesn't really buildup well and the climax was weak. The ending felt off and abrupt.

Djinn has a weak story. I loved the folklore background, I felt it added something original and engaging, but the actual narrative suffers from a lack of buildup and character. There are quite a few scenes that felt off, like the ending. There's a scene towards the beginning where the counselor is blatantly suspicious, demonic voice and all, but the couple shrug it off like it's nothing. These types of contrived and unnatural scenes are scattered throughout the film. It also feels like there are some chunks missing. There are several characters that aren't really explained, so you end up with more questions than answers.

Djinn isn't a complete loss, though. In fact, I actually enjoyed it for its horror elements. There's some moderate suspense, plenty of jolting jump-scares, and some eerie visuals. The visuals, like the djinn crawling down the hallway or across a ceiling, were my favorite. The visual presentation creates a surreal experience. It's mostly reliant on figures appearing and disappearing within seconds, but I really enjoyed it. The horror is really the saving grace for this film. If the writing was more in-depth, this would've been great. As it is now, though, it's more like a jump-out-and-scare-you horror film than a scarring horror film — it's fun for the moment, but it doesn't leave an impression.

The acting is good. I liked Razane Jammal and Khalid Laith. They don't share much on-screen chemistry, but they are more than serviceable. The supporting cast is also good. The film is shot well, I liked the camerawork and settings. The music doesn't have much personality — in fact, I can't really remember most of it, which is disappointing considering the setting. Some of the special effects are great, some are a little iffy — not bad for the budget, I suppose. Director Tobe Hooper, who also directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, crafts some wonderful scares, but his vision crumbles by the end. I suppose this has more to do with the writing — I simply feels like writer David Tully had no idea how to end the film. Really, the lack of depth in the story and characters keep this film from being truly great.

Overall, Djinn is a decent horror film — if you're only seeking an audio-visual horror experience. The use of folklore is great, but the narrative around it is lackluster. The story simply doesn't buildup, it doesn't really feel like much is going on, and the characters are fairly hollow; the ending was utterly disappointing, even for a film with such glaring flaws before it reaches the climax. The film's saving grace comes from the brisk pacing, the moderate suspense, the effective jump-scares, and the eerie visuals. (i.e the horror) If you don't care for story and only want something to jump at you, this might be worth a rental.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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