One cannot let bad movies get in the way of being a horror geek. We struggle through tons of rotten movies (that usually have great promotional artwork) in order to locate the good and occasionally great pieces of genre cinema -- but sometimes a really bad horror flick is nothing short of mystifying. As in: not only is the new indie horror / thriller Jinn an outrageously bad film, but how does something so amateurish make it way into 150 theaters while great indies open in 16 theaters and VOD at the same time?
Money, that's how. The company that bankrolled the SyFy-grade Jinn (and jammed it with bizarre promotions for an automobile) also paid for a semi-wide release. So this is not a case of a distributor risking money on an indie film they really like; it's a bunch of wannabe filmmakers playing pretend. And boy does the result show on the screen. Writer / producer / director / editor Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad seems to capture the comic book style he's after in one or two fleeting scenes, only to follow those moments with fifteen minutes of flashback padding or (even worse) more exposition-heavy droning.
As listless and aggressively dreary as a film can be without transforming into a wet blanket, Jinn is about a nice guy (Dominic Rains) whose wife (Serinda Swan) is abducted by an ancient Jinn. Genie. Whatever. Already I've made the film sound like more fun than it actually is. There's a clunky prologue, a ton of IKEA-looking melodrama, a dash of creepy stuff, the abduction, the numerous explanations, a few wonderfully goofy action scenes, and a completely predictable finale that steals the freakin' "magical weapon grab!" from Star Wars. I don't know if cliches get more tired than that.
Not only is the plot dull and most of the dialogue painful to behold, but the monsters / scares / horror that should logically arise to please the genre fans are annoyingly few and far between. The evil Jinn isn't all that interesting, but at least the filmmakers have cast people like William Atherton (the jerk from Die Hard and Ghostbusters), Faran Tahir (the ominous Iron Man nemesis), and Ray Park (a villain in everything from X-Men to Phantom Menace) as heroic sidekicks. Yes. Not only does Ray Park (aka Toad aka Darth Maul) play a heroic genie named Gabriel, but he gets to roundhouse face-smash a few people (out of nowhere) for no logical reason AND deliver most of the film's frequent deluges of backstory.
The missteps are endless. From the omnipresent tinkling of the overbearing musical score to the amateurish editorial style that never comes close to telling a cohesive story, Jinn may have a few pretty shots of Detroit to speak of, but one could also find a few pretty shots of Detroit on Google, too. The leading lady is very pretty and (logically) some of Bob Kurtzman's third act make-up effects are a small silver lining, but unfortunately Jinn is a pretty laughable affair.