UAE's first ever horror film slated by critics

Abu Dhabi's Djinn was directed by Poltergeist's Tobe Hooper

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.

<Click here to see a trailer for the film>

“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.

<Click here to see a trailer for the film>


Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Sami

Really, really proud of the UAE for making this movie. I am a huge movie fan and really enjoy the horror genre. Even if the movie is not a commercial success - the next one will be. And Image Nation has already received critical and commercial success with Fair Game and The Crazies. I attend a script writing class and we were watching Jaws and other films and analysing the ways in which the director creates and diffuses fear and tension. Anyways really proud of Image Nation, someone there clearly understands the importance of film and building a business that can produce films across genres.
And with regard to all the critical reviews. Everything worth anything takes time. When Japan first made cars they were ridiculed. When Korea first made mobile phones, nobody wanted one. Can't help but feel some of the criticism is from a country that doesn't want any rivalry abroad.
Anyway all the best with future endeavours!
Also - hire some of the people who worked on Sinister (S Derrickson)!!

Posted by: Mick

I'm also a horror movie fan and I think I've seen almost every one from blockbuster to bargain bin to fanmade on youtube. Sinister was fantastic. I'll probably give this one a miss though.

Posted by: Jimmy Roastbeef

With all those public holidays, how this ever get made. Seem like "it didn't"

Posted by: Mick

Walking off the set in protest seems pretty much in line with the typical "toys out of the pram" hostile and sulking style we've been accustomed to from some folks.
The GCC market, particularly the Emirati film making industry can't assume that its going to get a passing grade just because it is made here and the sophomoric effort should always be rewarded with a pat on the back regardless of how marginally passable it is on the big screen. I'm sure it'll be straight to the bargain bin in the States. This is the big league, my local filmmaking friends. You can't mirror cliche ghost stories from numerous other films and get kudos because it was shot in the UAE. The critic that said ?is strictly for the Emirati market? nailed it. At least it should get about 20,000 views in the cinema and about a million illegal downloads by kids bored waiting for the next Walking Dead episode.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Everything you need to know about Qatar

Everything you need to know about Qatar

Former British protectorate has been ruled by the Al-Thani family...

The Al Thanis are Qatar's power family

The Al Thanis are Qatar's power family

New research sheds light on the overwhelming influence of the...

Raising the bar: DLA Piper plans fresh growth in the Gulf

Raising the bar: DLA Piper plans fresh growth in the Gulf

Legal firm DLA Piper’s Middle East business recorded 10 percent...

Most Discussed