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There were two films released this year and both were the products of writing-directing duo David Charbonier and Justin Powell. Both films, The Djinn released on May 14, 2021, and The Boy Behind the Door just two months later on July 29, 2021, are two very different stories with their own individual atmospheres yet oddly enough they feel like a packaged set. Despite their differences in quality, story, themes, and amounts of passion that went into the productions, you can watch them both back to back and not only see the fingerprints of the pair that made them but you will get the feeling that one is an afterbirth of the first.

This may be a review for The Djinn but I feel that it is impossible to properly discuss it without also discussing The Boy Behind the Door because watching it alone, and then watching it as a companion piece results in two very different opinions. At least, from my perspective. The Boy Behind the Door is perfectly capable of standing on its own and does so with incredible suspense that will keep you clenched tight in your seat the entire time. It is a must-see, but The Djinn isn’t so lucky. The quieter, shorter feature comes off as its experimental half-brother that likes to half-ass its homework until it’s too late to turn it in. Taking on a look, feel and tone of a short film that was designed to be expanded into a feature-length one, a blueprint that never got fully mapped out, it never reaches its full potential and needs its smarter, more focused sibling to help them out.

Despite being released first, The Djinn was actually made after The Boy Behind the Door and yet it’s the one that comes off like first-time filmmakers testing the waters. There is a dreadful atmosphere and tone, with both films revolving around a boy, who is alone for the majority of the runtime, that is forced to deal with a horrible situation that forcibly exposes them to very adult themes but as I said, it never takes what it has and properly runs with it but rather sleepily walks its way through the story until the end credits start to roll.

The Djinn opens with young Dylan, a mute and asthmatic boy, walking in on his mother’s suicide. She’s standing in the kitchen with her backside to him, and only after he realizes what she’s doing, does she turn around and face him. It cuts to black and we jump ahead just a few months later as Dylan and his father are moving into a new home. This right here is the whole focus of the story, so just keep that in mind. While exploring his new home, Dylan finds an old book that offers instructions on granting people’s wishes explaining that a creature called a “Djinn” will appear to grant your deepest desire. Dylan waits until his father goes to work to get busy, and he asks exactly what you’d expect a mute little boy to ask for– he asks for a voice.

When the djinn arrives Dylan finds out that there is a catch to getting what you want. The djinn will only grant you your wish if you can survive one hour in its presence as it viciously tries to kill you. This is why you need to always read the fine print. A fairytale framed in a modern setting, the message can be boiled down to “be careful what you wish for.” There are heavy themes at play that stay way past the line of playing it safe, but I think that really all comes down to the runtime. Coming in at just 82 minutes, there is no room for anything but the plot. No time to diddle dally around, and no time to expand on what could have been some incredible psychological warfare between a boy consumed with guilt over something that wasn’t his fault, and a mythical creature that can literally bend reality.

I’m actually unsure of how to properly describe my feelings for this film. It’s short, slow but also compact, and features an incredible performance by Ezra Dewey but it never goes anywhere beyond the safe and decent resume builder that it ultimately is. At the same time, I find it impossible to simply cast it aside as a mediocre film. Whether it’s the aesthetics, tone, or the fact that there is actually an incredibly fascinating film somewhere in here, it has struck a chord with me.

Final Verdict

The Djinn is a fascinating movie wrapped inside a constipated one and while I wouldn’t say it’s by the numbers, it’s very predictable. There is a haunting and painful presence that vibrates throughout the whole story that’s amplified by Dewey’s terrified facial expressions, this alone makes it worth a viewing, and the story itself is captivating with room to branch off into many different directions but the way its executed makes it seem like an unoriginal supernatural thriller.

Is this film worth a watch? I’d say yes. I’d recommend it to someone but not to anyone looking for anything other than a slow creeping story accompanied by little to no dialogue.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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