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Film review: Djinn.

With all the buzz surrounding the Abu Dhabi Film Festival world-premiere of Emirati-American horror film Djinn, it was difficult to go into the screening without expectations - or even doubts. Would it be worth the two-year wait? Would the fresh-faced actors be able to deliver convincing performances? Would the visual/sound components come together to instill terror?

In short: yes, yes and... maybe a bit.

Filmed in an abandoned fishing range in Ras Al Khaimah, the distinctive flick was put together by US director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974) and Abu Dhabi's Image Nation. It centres around a young Emirati man and his Lebanese wife who reluctantly relocate from their home in America to the UAE after the mysterious death of their child. They take up residence in a desolate, unwelcoming building in the middle of nowhere and find themselves face-to-face with a few suspect neighbours.

Cue stereotypical horror movie schtick. Fogged up surroundings, eerie whispers, flickering lights and the maddening tendency of characters to run towards danger as opposed to away from it - nothing new for the genre here. The gimmicky nature of the film is undeniable, relying on the jump-in-your-seat sort of shockers rather than really messing with its viewers' psyches.

But that doesn't mean that Djinn failed to break ground. What makes it relevant to the region is its realistic portrayal of a young couple who are torn between the lure of the West and the beckoning call of the Arab world. The characters' crisis of nationality and lack of belonging underlies the entirety of the plot, and conversations switch between Arabic and English throughout the film in a way that's true to the experiences of many Westernised Arabs today. In that sense, the movie was able to resonate with - and subsequently instill terror into - a certain segment of viewers who usually benefit from feeling a sense of detachment from horror film victims who look and talk nothing like them.

Of course, the movie's modernised exploration of the evil-doing Djinn only served to amplify this. If you aren't familiar, Djinn are spiritual creatures of the unseen world mentioned in Islamic texts who many have grown up fearing. As lead actress Razane Jammal said during red carpet interviews prior to the screening, the movie provides a change from the usual werewolves and vampire narratives that the industry is oversaturated with, giving us something new to shake in our boots over.

If you're sufficiently intrigued, the film plans to have its theatrical release in the region just in time for Halloween, October 31.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 27, 2013
Words:440
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