These are my favorite films of Tobe Hooper: Salem’s Lot (’79), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982) (though there is some debate on who really directed this, him or Steven Spielberg), Invaders From Mars (1986), Lifeforce (1985), The Mangler (1995) and Toolbox Murders (2004). So as I watched Djinn last night I kept asking myself what the hell happened to Tobe Hooper? I think the answer is aging, though it’s not always the main reason, but most of the horror directors I used to watch on a regular basis back in the day just don’t make the kind of movies they used to, the late Wes Craven being the exception, and I firmly believe if you’re an artist most of you best work is done when you relatively young.
I heard about Hooper’s “evil genie” flick back in 2013, since then there have been at least two other movies about “evil genies” that have shared the Djinn title. I reviewed one of them earlier this year. When I heard about Director Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad’s Jinn (2014), before I saw the trailer and saw who the director was, I thought it was Hooper’s flick, and then I heard about Djinns (2010 aka Stranded), and for a nanosecond thought it was Hooper’s movie under a new title. Going through VideoETA’s site a month ago I finally learned Hooper’s flick was getting a release this November. I had seen the trailer back in ’13 but took a look at it again. Truth be told the only reason I wanted to review it was because Hooper directed it and even though I hadn’t seen anything from him I liked since 2004, I still decided to just cross my fingers and hope for the best on this new movie. Unfortunately crossing one’s fingers and hoping for the best doesn’t necessarily work.
I will say it’s got a great location, most of it takes place in this new high rise back in the couples home country of Ras al-Khaimah, on the outskirts of anyway and surrounded by fog most of the time. Just to give you sense of its isolation it takes the husband 2-hours to drive to work. It’s photographed well but the characters, the plot, and the “evil” they face are simply uninteresting. In fact even though it deals with an Arabian myth the evil Djinn feels more like it was modeled after Asian horror movies like The Grudge and The Ring, where it’s a female entity that crawls on all fours at times and who’s predominant feature is long, dark hair that obscures half or all of the face. The Djinn here is female and will occasionally crawl on fours, sometimes on the ceiling, but does not have that characteristic long, dark hair, instead is draped all in black robes and cloth.
I can’t stand Asian horror flicks, mostly their ghost stories, simply due to a cultural difference of them finding child and female ghosts terrifying and I don’t, at least not in the way they portray them, and that’s kind of how the Djinn was portrayed.
The plot is simple, Husband and wife, Khalid (Khalid Laith) and Salama (Razane Jammal), have lost a child to SIDS and their grief counselor recommends they start anew in their home country, but Salama doesn’t want to go. Khalid insists, and so they go. They find this new high rise that’s just been built out in the middle of nowhere and try to start their life over again, but the moment they step forth into their apartment, Salama experiences supernatural phenomena like birds killing themselves by crashing into their windows, hearing baby voices and seeing dark figures crawling into her apartment. There’s only one other person living on the sixth floor with them and it’s a hot chick that we all understand is this Djinn. These Djinns are shape-shifters and this chick is one her forms; it also takes the form of Salama’s recently deceased mother to emotionally torture her.
The husband is another issue. There is legend of a Djinn having sex with this fisherman and bearing his half human/half Djinn child. The twist here is Khalid is this offspring but all his knowledge of his evil side has been suppressed, and his mother simply wants him back and in full operating order.
There’s a couple of other twists involving how their child got dead and where they really are in regards to the building, and it all leads to the predictable ending of Khalid seeking revenge for his dead baby and staring into the camera at the end, proclaiming his evil nature and that he’s back.
As I said it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and seen done better. It’s a short film so there’s that, but even short bad films are still too long. I knew I was done for with this movie the moment I took up my remote and began fast-forwarding it. That’s always a dead giveaway when you’re coming to the realization the movie you’re watching has lost all its power over you.
This was a screener I reviewed and not the final DVD product, so I cannot fully comment on the specs other than the 2.35:1 transfer looked great and the sound was good as well. Characters speak in a combination of Arabic and English, sometimes in the same scene. and English subtitles are provided.
If you want to take your chance with this film, Screen Media Films is putting out on DVD on November 17th.
The only two good movies I’ve seen in my lifetime about evil genies is The Outing (1987, aka The Lamp) and the one I previously mentioned, which I reviewed, Jinn (2014). Seek those two out instead.