Djinn, the horror movie produced in the UAE by Abu Dhabi’s Image Nation and directed by legendary Hollywood filmmaker Tobe Hooper, has been stung by highly negative reviews ahead of its official launch today.
Nearly three years after it was announced at the Cannes Film Festival, the horror movie is finally set to be released this weekend in the UAE and received its world premier at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
Although directed by Hooper, of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist fame, the initial reviews from high profile US film critics for the UAE's first ever horror movie have been less than complimentary.
“Few would guess Tobe Hooper’s been making pics since the 1970s, given how outright bad “Djinn” looks,” was the opening line of the recent review of the film by US-based trade entertainment magazine Variety.
Critic Jay Weissberg went on to describe the film as a “limp attempt at local horror” which was “thrown together into a cheesy, ham-fisted ghost story.”
The damning verdict said the “chills are nonexistent and frights minimal” and also criticised the production’s “unimaginative f/x and leaden dialogue”.
It concluded by saying the film “is strictly for the Emirati market” but its “condescension to one’s target audience won’t make lasting friends”.
While rival trade magazine Screen Daily’s review said the film offered “nothing massively distinctive", it wasn't as negative, describing it as “a tight , taut and rather traditional supernatural tale” which contained “some nicely sustained spooky shocks, a shrewd sense of place and atmosphere and enough ghostly goings-on [to] keep genre fans happy”.
The first Emirati horror film produced in the UAE, it tells the tale of an Emirati family returning to the UAE from the US who are targeted by malevolent spirits.
The release confounds previous reports last year which claimed the film had been permanently shelved by Abu Dhabi authorities.
“We’re thrilled with Djinn,” Image Nation CEO Michael Garin told Arabian Business’ sister publication Digital Studio earlier this year.
“Basically, the time issues were to do with post [production] and CGI. It’s not just what you capture on film but the audience experience at the end. We needed to make it look and feel like other horror movies they’re seeing. Getting the effects, sounds and music right is a lot harder than people imagine. The rumours [of it being shelved] were all nonsense,” he added.
The film is being released in partnership with Hyde Park Films, who in the past released the 2011 Richard Gere film ‘The Double’ and the Nicholas Cage film ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’.
Last year, online media reports claimed a rough cut of the movie had angered Abu Dhabi authorities and Image Nation had been forced to can it.
The filming of the horror flick was not without controversy. Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja, who worked as a cultural consultant on the movie, walked off the set in protest at the lack of local input.
“I was the only Emirati on set — all the key players weren’t,” she told Arabian Business in 2011. “It’s nothing against the people at all; it’s just that you couldn’t call it an Emirati film.
“Obviously it’s a movie, and they have to exaggerate and create stuff, but for me, only the second film they made — ‘Sea Shadow’ — was Emirati.”
Image Nation was launched in 2008 as a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company. The company’s film credits include the Hollywood thriller The Double, Contagion and Oscar-winning movie The Help.
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