Djinn (2013): Tobe Hooper’s Supernatural Swill

November 17, 2018 | By

When new investment materialize overseas, it’s logical for any genre filmmaker to investigate an opportunity to not only make a horror film shot in an exotic location, but explore a tale set in a culture rarely detailed by Hollywood.

Jennifer Lynch’s foray into a Bollywood horror-musical mash-up with Hisss (2010) proved disastrous for a variety of reasons, including culture clashes, clashes between director & producer, and the film being reportedly recut without her involvement, hence an absolute mess that was detailed in Despite the Gods (2012), a fly-on-the-wall documentary by Lynch’s production assistant Penny Vozniak.

Tobe Hooper’s final feature film, Djinn (2013).

Lynch survived the debacle and came out stronger, but Tobe Hooper’s efforts around the same time to make Djinn, a supernatural shocker set in the UAE, ended up being his feature film swan song, and an ignominious end to an otherwise promising career as one of indie horror’s pioneering filmmakers.

Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) remains one of the most terrifying horror films ever made, and established a grungy approach that embraced handheld documentary camera work, in-your-face close-ups, and an unrelenting dread as a trip to visit a newly bestowed family home goes very wrong for a group of hippies.

The gore is minimal, but the intensity of character torment dragged out in epic montages, plus a stomach-turning sound design and nihilistic finale ensured everyone left the cinema feeling just a little shell-shocked. When the film first materialized on home video, its lurid cover of a woman writhing on a meat hook beckoned shelf browsers to examine and ponder a rental; those who took the gamble were either repulsed, and / or riveted by a style that has since become the norm in the torture porn genre and pseudo docu-shockers.

Hooper directed a Chainsaw sequel for Cannon when the success of Poltergiest (1982) made him a hot name in horror, but Cannon didn’t know how to handle risqué material nor Hooper’s reverence for Hammer horror and fifties sci-fi shockers, hence the messy post-production phase of Lifeforce (1985) and his remake of Invaders from Mars (1986), respectively.

The Funhouse (1981) was Hooper’s first studio feature, and in spite of Universal’s poor handling of the flawed film, its mood and visual style may have been key attractions to Spielberg & Co. and led to the Poltergeist gig, yet following the Cannon disasters – Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) was heavily recut, Lifeforce truncated and somewhat rescored, Invaders rescored – Hooper found himself in TV, and the few features that came his way lacked the edge or budgetary gloss of his prior films.

I remember watching Crocodile (2000), which was slightly tolerable, until the blocky titular reptile emerged, resembling a graft from some Atari videogame. The Toolbox Murders (2004) proved surprisingly grisly and fun, whereas The Mangler (1995) seemed to have lost ¾ of its budget before cameras began to roll, making it among the worst of his post-Chainsaw 2 productions.


Djinn (2018) stars Aiysha Hart, Razane Jammal, and Khalid Laith. I wonder who could possibly be the shape-shifting, teasing, and malevolent supernatural force?


If Djinn seemed like a great opportunity, script issues and subsequent post-production problems kept the film in stasis, with rumours of a suppressed release due to an investor’s unhappiness with specific cultural depictions – perhaps coded terminology for Bad Investment.

The film did eventually premiere following a roughly 2 year period after cameras had initially wrapped… and fans waited… and waited… for Hooper’s first feature since 2005’s Mortuary to be released…  but alas, a straight to video dump seemed in the cards, and a stealthy one, given little fanfare seemed to support its 2015 DVD release. (Hooper’s film is also one of several Djinn-titled shockers, including a 1994, 2008, 2010, and 2016 production.)

Tobe Hooper should’ve enjoyed a lengthy career, gliding between TV and film, maybe cable TV and Netflix deals, and been able to explore themes and subjects that tickled his mischievous sensibilities, but pioneers rarely enjoy the fruits of their labour after smashing hard barriers – it’s the later generations inspired by his grunge and intensity that have benefited, not to mention imitators and corporations rebooting franchises stemming from his most iconoclastic work.

Djinn is part oddity, part curio, and a thing best forgotten after being seen, but it’s also a cautionary example of what happens when good intentions and earnest efforts are foiled by exceptionally weak links in the production chain.

Coming next:  The overrated, big fish shocker The Meg (2018) from Warner Home Video.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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