APRIL 8, 2014
The found footage movie Afflicted has gotten some good notices, sounds like something I'd enjoy, and has the backing of CBS Films (who gave us The Woman in Black and Last Exorcism 2)... however, it only opened on ONE screen here in Los Angeles. Worse, it was the Mann's Chinese 6 (or whatever they call it now), which is a horribly overpriced, inconveniently located theater that I avoid as much as possible. On the other hand, we have Jinn, a movie that's been on the shelf for years, is reviewed positively only by its own filmmakers on the IMDb, and a distributor I've never heard of behind it - and yet I had at least 3 theaters around me where I could see it, in addition to another dozen around the Los Angeles county. Something is clearly broken with this current system, a thought that crossed my mind several times during this interminable and barely coherent horror/action blend.
Some movies you can just tell are gonna be a slog as soon as they start, and Jinn did nothing to prove my instinct wrong after its exposition heavy opening scene, where we are told the history of Jinns and Shaitans, followed by more exposition given by a pair of characters in a poorly lit room. Then we meet our hero Shawn, and we get more exposition, and then freaky stuff starts happening, prompting Ray Park to show up and... offer more exposition. Sure, he kicks some folks (and stars in the nuttiest action scene I've witnessed in quite some time), but his job is to just explain some stuff and transport our hero to two other characters who will go on to explain the movie's convoluted and never even slightly interesting backstory. There are five people of note in the film, and three of them spend most of their screentime rambling about the history of its creatures, why Shawn is involved, what needs to be done, etc. It's like an entire season's worth of Supernatural gibberish packed into 90 minutes, without any of that show's humor, interesting characters, or breaks in the ongoing story to take down a monster or have a little fun (Castiel working at the gas station earlier this year? Hilarious!).
That the lead character possesses no charisma at all is another crippling flaw. I can't fully blame the actor, perhaps he's great (he's got a lengthy resume, even appears in Captain America 2). But when his role has him do nothing but stand there and listen to others ramble for large chunks of the runtime and keeps him from doing any of the real action until its 3rd act (by which point any reasonable human being would have given up on the thing, but I am not a reasonable man), it's hard to find him all that compelling. Before he undergoes his "Chilla" (ritual to become a Jinn, if I'm following correctly) and does some fighting, the biggest action sequence is the one I mentioned, with Park doing everything. During this fight scene, Shawn stands near a car that he can't get into because it's locked, prompting Park to shift focus away from fighting to use the Force to transport the keys from the valet station (at a mental institution?) to the other man. That Park was single-handedly killing the shit out of all of the bad guys and probably could have finished them off in another 20 seconds and just brought him the keys the normal way is besides the point, I guess.
The car stuff is about as interesting as the movie gets. I've seen thousands of movies in my life, and I've more or less watched the credits for most of them, so believe me when I say that this has to be the first feature film that not only dedicates a sizable chunk of its endless (15 minutes) end title sequence to the team that built the "Firebreather" car that Shawn drives/shows off in a lengthy sequence that serves no other purpose beyond "let's show off our cool car". Even more hilarious, this portion of the credits is followed by, I shit you not, a list of every person who has one along with their custom number from its limited run! And here I thought the promise of a sequel at the top of the credits (not a scene setting one up - an actual "THE JINN WILL RETURN!" onscreen message, though we get the monster coming back at the very end of the titles too) would be the most laughably brazen thing about them. Really, I had more fun watching the titles; they weren't as interminable as the film and at least showed some balls that the (PG-13) feature itself lacked.
See here's the thing - I'd rather watch a completely awful piece of rubbish like The Mangler than ego-driven nonsense like this. Director/writer/editor/producer/co-star/car designer/visual effects consultant (seriously)/3-4 other titles I've forgotten Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad is clearly full of himself and interested more in showing off his car than making a good movie. In fact I'm surprised he wasn't playing the main character himself, a la The Room, which this could have been the next of had it not been so damn dull. The plot may be gibberish, but it's got competent acting (William Atherton even pops up, but not as an asshole!), halfway decent production value, and a cool monster courtesy of Robert Kurtzman. In other words, it's not bad ENOUGH - it's just a hollow shell of a movie with zero passion on display. There's no insanity like The Room, nor anything as jaw droppingly awful as the finale of The Mangler, with a giant laundry machine stampeding around dimly lit hallways... it's just THERE, boring us to tears with every new long-winded explanation of a mythology that couldn't possibly excite anyone. I'm all for using real life mythology as a backdrop for a genre flick (the Chilla, for example, is a legitimate and very difficult ritual - though it doesn't help you fight monsters as far as I know), and it's rare to see Islamic customs being used in this sort of thing, but it's got to have a compelling hero with a strong motive at its core - otherwise it's just window dressing. Our hero is just some guy with a fascinating car. Maybe the car should have talked and taken over hero duties itself.
What say you?