After the death of their infant son, a married couple returns to the United Arab Emirates for new opportunities and to be closer to family. Their new home, however, has been built on land with a dark past, and it seems that their presence has caught the attention of a benevolent creature.
I scrolled past this movie on Netflix streaming, and I remembered hearing the term “djinn” from some episode of Supernatural a while back. I’m always a sucker for supernatural type movies, so I figured I’d give it a go.
Djinn is directed by Tobe Hooper, who is famously known for his work with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and original Poltergeist. I will be honest when I say that I did go into this movie with expectations because of this fact. For that reason, I was slightly let down. The movie doesn’t seem like something that was directed by one of the masters of horror, who has been making horror films since the 1970s. Now that this is out of the way, I’ll try to talk about the movie itself.
This movie is a collaboration type movie. It’s produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi while being written and directed by American filmmakers. The finished film is spoken in both English and Arabic with English subtitles. The language spoken depends on the characters in the film. For example, when Salama (Razane Jammal) is speaking with her husband Khalid (Khalid Laith), she tends to lean toward speaking English, and she does this when she is speaking to other characters. Salama leans toward speaking Arabic when speaking with her family and when she’s forced into it. It’s part of her character, since Salama doesn’t agree with returning to the United Arab Emirates. It’s more of a decision made between her husband and their therapist.
Despite the collaboration, Djinn will come off as a foreign movie to most viewers, myself included. I wasn’t bothered by this because I often watch foreign movies. I’m used to it. I did recognize the cultural divide between myself and the characters in the movie. There were elements to both the marital dynamic and the family dynamic featured that I didn’t agree with, but I’m not really in a place to comment on it. I’m also unsure of the validity of the relationship dynamics shown in the movie because I don’t know the backgrounds of the writers. For all of these reasons, I’ll be leaving that bit alone. Other than that, the film will strike American audiences as foreign simply for being set in the United Arab Emirates, having dialogue in Arabic, and focusing on a creature from Islamic theology.
Based off of the story given in the movie, the creature in Djinn is somewhat close to what American films call demons. I’m making this comparison simply because the creatures have free will so they do what they want no matter how evil it is and they have the ability to possess humans. After that, the comparison stops. There are a lot of other differences, and there’s a whole area of lore about the djinn that the movie doesn’t touch on. For the sake of the story in this movie, just know that the jinni is an evil character.
In terms of scares in Djinn, I felt that there were a lot of really good ideas being thrown out there, but none of them really took hold for one reason or another. There were some areas where the dialogue was difficult to hear. One area with scary stories being told around a fire was soiled by sub par acting. Also, the effects aren’t the best, so that may take some viewers out of it. As a pretty avid watcher of foreign films, I definitely appreciated the feel that the movie was going for.
One of the notes that I kept writing as I watched the movie was, “could have been better,” and I feel like that’s a pretty decent summation for Djinn as a whole. Unfortunately, none of the camera work or editing comes in to save the movie from its downfalls. My biggest complaint was with the ending. It felt like a complete cop out to me. I would have wanted something more.
There are some reviews of the movie out on the internet that are really negative. One review in particular said that Djinn was stealing ideas from The Grudge. I didn’t see that at all. The only thing I could think of for that comparison would be that it was set in an apartment and occasionally the djinn is seen on security cameras. The creature movements aren’t similar and neither are the sounds that it makes. I just didn’t see it.
Djinn is available on Netflix streaming if you choose to watch it. I don’t directly recommend it, but I do believe it could be worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing a movie featuring Arabic lore. I know I did enjoy that aspect.