'Be careful what you wish for' is a motif often explored in horror films. The Djinn is a riff on this that combines Wishmaster with Come Play. Early on father Michael (Rob Brownstein) reads the portion of Pinocchio to his son Dylan (Ezra Dewey) in which Pinocchio becomes a donkey instead of a real boy like his wishes for. This sets up this high concept but small-scale horror film from writer/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell.
Dylan is mute and is recovering from the loss of his mother. His father works as an overnight radio host. Dylan believes his mother would still be around if he was able to speak. One night Dylan finds the Book of Shadows, left by the previous owner who died in the apartment. The book contains a spell that grants one wish to whoever reads it. Dylan doesn't read the fine print however and makes his wish. Little does he know that this will unleash an evil entity that can take on any human form. The entity or Djinn wants Dylan's soul.
One thing that The Djinn does a great job at is making the most out of the small two-bedroom setting. We understand the layout early on and this pays off when the scares begin to roll out. The entity puts up some sort of block around the door leading out so that Dylan is trapped alone for the night. This leads to a cat and mouse hide-and-seek game for much of the film. While this produces some tense moments and a few jump-scares, the formula does get repetitive. Cinematographer Julian Estrada uses tight framing to often keep us with Dylan.
At the center of The Djinn is Dewey's performance. He is the only human character for much of the film and for a kid performance, he does a nice job. He goes from terrified to exhausted often and sells it all. We are given flashbacks to show the traumatic death of Dylan's mother. We get why it hits him so hard and why he would wish for what he does. However, little is done with this as the film mostly plays out as a tense hide and seek game. The film's structure is where The Djinn lost me.
Charbonier and Powell do a lot with a little here but their screenplay only briefly goes deeper than its high concept plot. I do like that the horror here is rooted in Dylan's emotional state. I wish the film had given more time to the relationship to his mother's death and less time was spent on the Djinn hunting Dylan.