Jinn (2014)

Ok, this is funny. This is my first ever case of ‘mistaken identity’, when it comes to my film reviews. I’ve had this flick waiting to be watched in my movie queue for a couple years now…just haven’t got around to it. Here I am on another lazy Sunday afternoon (the best kind) and I again got nipped by the writing bug. Wanted to watch something new…and ‘Jinn’ drew the short straw. Now, what I ended up watching…was not what I thought I was going to be watching. A few years ago, I’d heard that late director Tobe Hooper (‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’) had put together a low budget horror film (his last feature, actually) shot and set in the United Arab Emirates, called ‘Djinn’ (2013). Detective that I am, when I went to seek out that movie, I managed to omit the ‘D’ from the title…resulting with THIS movie sitting in it’s place in my viewing line-up. So I closed the blinds, popped up some popcorn and parked my ass to watch what I THOUGHT was Hooper’s last film…surprise!
In a nutshell, this flick focus’ on a sexy and successful young couple, who find themselves tormented by a supernatural creature with a personal vendetta. When the woman is kidnapped by the creature, the dude is pulled into an underground supernatural ‘resistance’ that teaches him how to defend against and defeat the monster that threatens him and his wife.

As most Sunday reviews of late go…here are my scribbles:

-Cool animated intro and V/O. Right off the bat, I got a comic book feel from this one and how it started. Not what I expected.

-Feels epic. Budget well used. There was just something in how they executed the film that succeeded in giving it a grander scale than I would thing their apparently meager budget would allow. Still…not what I expected.

-Some acting / dialogue a lil hokey. Pretty much exactly what that sentence says.

-A Mila Kunis clone? Ok with me!! I think Mila Kunis is one of the sexiest women in Hollywood and the main actress here, a gal from right here in Vancouver named Serinda Swan, was almost a dead ringer for Kunis and therefore gorgeous and easy on the eyes. No complaints from this fella!

-Dude from ‘Star Trek’ / ‘Iron Man’. This would be a reference to Faran Tahir, the imposing chrome-dome actor from those two flicks (and others)…that I somehow found to be significant enough to jot down.

-Ah, the ole ‘If you’re watching this…I’m dead’ cliche’. Yep, yet another movie where the story is kicked off with someone watching a recording of someone they knew, who left it for them in the event of their untimely death, usually at the hands of whatever malalovent entity will be eventually plaguing our protagonist.

-Haha! Shades of ‘Poltergeist’. Ok, just remember that I THOUGHT I was watching a movie by Tobe Hooper, who also (allegedly) directed that 1982 horror classic…though I’m convinced that Spielberg is the actual Man Behind the Plan on that one. Imagine my surprise when the credits roll and I see ‘Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad’ pop up in the Director’s spot. I even checked to see if that was maybe an alias Hooper had used…nope. I simply had the wrong goddamned movie (face palm).

-Nice! William Atherton. I’ve always liked Atherton, since he played the slimy asshole reporter ‘Dick Thornberg’ in the 1988 Christmas classic ‘Die Hard’, but the next role that always comes to mind is his tragic turn as ‘Clovis’ in Spielberg’s second film, 1974’s ‘The Sugarland Express’ (great film too, BTW). And yes, his role as the douchebag EPA official in ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984) was great as well.

-Definitely some cool + creepy visuals. This was another aspect that had me sure I was watching Hooper’s film, as the man has given us some slick visuals in the past and some of what’s shown here would be right at home in his filmography.

-Dude reminds me of Oscar Isaac. Or Elias Koteas. The main character, ‘Shawn’, was played by some Nobody named Dominic Rains, who at times looked like either of those two (far better) actors.

-Ok, some Kung Fu action. Martial artist and stunt man extraordinaire Ray Park (‘Darth Maul’!) turns up here are as a supernatural guardian for ‘Shawn’ named ‘Gabriel’, and gets into a couple cool fisticuff scenes.

-More ‘high concept’ than I was expecting. Again, this was scribbled as I thought I was watching Tobe Hooper’s final film, which I heard was a bit more on the ‘artsy’ side. This felt like they were going for a slick, ‘popcorn’ feel, within whatever financial constraints they may have had.

-Reminds me of ‘Constantine’. Or ‘Supernatural’. Certain elements had me definitely thinking of the cool (to me, anyway )2005 Keanu Reeves adaptation of the Hellblazer series or the monster-fighting antics of the Winchester Bros. on one of my (and my GF’s) favorite, locally-shot shows. I like the more gritty and ‘grounded’ approach to humans existing in a world with monsters that are both friend and foe, and this movie did try some of that on for size.

-Not as artsy as expected. Do I even need to remind you of what I THOUGHT I was watching?! No? Ok…moving on.

-Um…car commercial? There’s a chase scene where the Jinn pursues ‘Shawn’ as he’s trying to escape in his black muscle car (some new Camaro or something) and it felt like it was trying to act as a commercial for the car…somehow.

-Jinn looks cool. We get little glimpses of the monster throughout the movie, usually via foggy shadow or frantic quick cuts, but when it finally revealed itself, in all it’s magma-veined glory, it looked pretty sweet.

-Use The Force!! Was that a TIE-fighter I just heard?!!! There’s a sequence where ‘Shawn’, in the middle of a frantically lit and edited supernatural fight scene with the Jinn, just somehow, out of the blue, figures out how to magically call his Jinn-killing dagger to him from across the room, similar to how we’ve seen Jedi Knights in ‘Star Wars’ yank their lightsabers back during a scuffle. And as if the influence wasn’t enough, I swear to Gawd that they threw in the signature shriek of a TIE Fighter flying past as the Jinn screams in reaction to the flying blade.

-Nice attempt at sequel potential. There will not be a sequel to ‘Jinn’. But they sure tried to set up the possibility with a scene involving a baby manifesting some unexpected magical properties as our heroes watch with worry and amazement.

-Movie wants to be more than it is. Confused tone. It’s obvious, even more so now that I know that this isn’t the movie I thought it was, that they wanted this to act as a slick calling card to Hollywood, but it’s budget just didn’t allow them to go ‘All the Way’. It’s certainly an admirable attempt though. And yes…a little more finesse on the consistency of the tone would’ve helped too.

-Very ‘Marvel’ sounding score over the final credits. More evidence that they wanted to show they could play with the slick-ass movies with the huge budgets too. The score was VERY ‘Marvel’ and further helped to confuse the tone a bit.

All in all, ‘Jinn’ is not a bad movie. It’s just not the movie I expected to be watching and reviewing today. It has a lot going for it. It’s well shot, has some genuinely cool visuals, decent music score, a gorgeous female lead and solid use of a small budget. On the flip side, the story feels half baked, some of the acting and dialogue is lacking and in the end, nothing terribly memorable happens. It’s a real ‘take it / leave it’ kind of title. I can recommend this one for a lazy afternoon if you just want to shut your brain off and watch something a little more obscure and easy on the grey matter. However, if you don’t ever get around to seeing ‘Jinn’…you’re still going to get through Life just fine.

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