The story of the Monkey’s Paw is an old one but a classic: it’s a tale of a person who is granted a wish via the titular item in a twisted or literal way. Films have replicated this story before, and the latest one to do so is the 2021 film ‘The Djinn’.
‘The Djinn’ follows a father and his mute son after they move into a new house after the death of the mother. But, one night alone, the son finds an old spell book that contains the means to be granted a wish and, thus, summon the Djinn, a sinister demon that will haunt and wreak havoc on the boy until sunrise.
I’ve never seen the traditional story told this intensely and with such well earned confidence.
Despite being only 80 minutes long, the pacing is fantastic: it introduces the main character and his relationship with his father very well, as well as giving audiences hints to the reasoning behind their move. From there, it comfortably unravels the events of the film which gradually gets worse and worse with a horrible sense of ease that works to the film’s advantage; it’s confident in its execution.
The acting is incredible: the relationship between the father, Michael (Rob Brownstein – Velvet Buzzsaw), and his mute son Dylan (Ezra Dewey – The Boy Behind The Door) is extremely well developed in a short amount of time before the focal plot starts. Audiences even learn about Michael’s background and occupation before Dylan is left alone; information that is definitely relevant to the film. Even though he’s not onscreen for very long, Rob Brownstein plays a sympathetic and caring character; the two characters care for each other but they’ve also been through a traumatic event, and the two actors express this perfectly. But the star is Ezra Dewey, who is phenomenal. A lot is demanded of him as he goes through a lot during the film, and he confidently carries the film. Not only was it crucial to get the casting right, which the film has done, but it was crucial to get an actor who could portray someone who is mute convincingly and, once again, Ezra Dewey captures this perfectly. Dylan is also immediately likable and sympathetic: he blames himself for his mother’s death and, so, wishes for a voice. It’s an understandable, but tragic, demand in terms of this situation.
The film’s decision to have a mute main character is a genius idea: Dylan has a unique advantage when it comes to surviving the night because, if he screamed, no sound would come out. However, this is a double-edged sword because, if he tried to scream, no one else would hear him and help him. In addition, the Djinn itself can’t communicate for the most part, therefore creating an interesting dynamic that, just like ‘A Quiet Place’, utilizes sound beautifully. The score and sound design play an extremely important part in this film: because spoken dialogue is taken away, the everyday sounds of footsteps or the croaking of the Djinn need to be heightened and replace the missing spoken words. The soundtrack and score also help elevate the tension of the film and, while there are a couple of cheesy moments regarding a jumpscare, it’s executed well. The sound design is as much of a character here than Dylan and the Djinn.
The cinematography is also an important and interesting part of the film. There are various types of shots being executed that were unique: an example being that, when Dylan is alone in the apartment, a lot of close ups are used and, when he’s with his father, the shots are wide angle. It could be symbolizing that Dylan is left to his own thoughts of feeling trapped without a voice when he’s on his own, hence the close ups. Then, when he’s with his father, he feels safer or distracted hence the wider shots which feels less claustrophobic. It also uses a lot of long one take shots that pan across the house, either to show the audiences the twists and turns of the new house or to show the Djinn’s point of view. The cinematography added an interesting and memorable style to the film that was appreciated.
The story of the Monkey’s Paw has never been done this intensely. ‘The Djinn’ is a phenomenal film with a unique main character, fantastic acting and writing and a lot of intense scenes. It’s very confident in its execution and is happy to let the audience experience this unapologetically and I found it an absolute delight (even when I found myself hugging a pillow at times!). The characters are also likable and sympathetic, making this a memorable watch. The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ has been used countless times, but ‘The Djinn’ is a definite harsh warning as to why a granted wish may not be so sweet after all.
The Djinn: opens in UK cinemas on Friday 17th September.
Megan’s taste in films are interesting: her favourite films are ‘Space Jam’, Studio Ghibli’s ‘The Cat Returns’, as well as horror films ‘Saw’, ‘Drag Me To Hell’ and ‘Ju-On: The Grudge’. When she’s not watching films, she’ll be spending precious hours playing ‘Crash Bandicoot’.