Tag Archives: Ezra Dewey

Somebody’s Knocking

The Boy Behind the Door

by Hope Madden

Filmmakers David Charbonier and Justin Powell know how to do a lot with a little.

Earlier this year Shudder premiered their tightly packaged little horror story, The Djinn—very nearly a one-man, one-set show. Their latest to hit Shudder, The Boy Behind the Door, is slightly more expansive. A cast of about five knocks around one big, old farmhouse in the middle of an isolated, wooded area.

Two of those five are Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey, The Djinn), best friends who were kidnapped on their way to a little league game. Bobby wakes up in the trunk of a car without Kevin. He breaks free and makes his way clear of the house, but he can hear Kevin’s terrified cries and he circles back to try and save him.

The filmmakers leave it to Bobby’s sleuthing—and yours–to figure out what’s going on and how to end it. They make tremendous use of the hallways, floors and doors throughout their set, plus a well-placed wristwatch unnervingly ups the ante in a way the audience understands but Bobby does not.

There are times when the writing here hits too hard. I’m not sure the boys have to say they’ll always stick together quite so often; their actions speak to that. But the conundrums the filmmakers throw at Bobby as he tries to figure out what’s going on and how to get to his friend are believable.

More importantly, Chavis handles them with honest, childlike panic and courage. His performance would be enough to carry the film, but the adults around him offer supremely creepy turns.

Dewey’s less effective in this than he was in The Djinn, but it’s not enough to sink the film. The movie’s solid structure, paired with Charbonier and Powell’s gift for dropping clues and following up on threads make for a satisfying but never lurid horror show.

Wishful Thinking

The Djinn

by Hope Madden

There is something to be said for films that do a lot with very little. The ability to awaken the imagination without the help of a big budget, multiple locations, a giant cast or too much in the way of FX is a credit to filmmakers.

And hell, David Charbonier and Justin Powell’s The Djinn does most of it without dialog.

Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey) and his dad (Rob Brownstein) have just moved into a new apartment. There’s a recent tragedy in their past, but that’s not the only reason Dad’s a little hesitant to go to his shift at the radio station. Dylan is mute and maybe he needs another day or two in the apartment to be truly safe on his own.

Ignoring his instincts, Dad leaves for work. For the balance of the film, we’re alone in the apartment with Dylan and the demon he innocently summons trying to regain his voice.

The Djinn succeeds on the strength of its young lead, who carries every scene without benefit of dialog. Star of the filmmakers’ 2020 horror tale The Boy Behind the Door, Dewey’s emotional performance is enough to keep you compelled for the film’s brisk run time.

Charbonier and Powell have other tricks up their sleeve to elevate their story. Cinematographer Julian Estrada, for one, who gives the impression that the apartment itself is watching the boy. Setting the film in 1988 frees the filmmakers up from recent tech that simplifies communication, which feels a tad like a cheat but does amplify a creepy sense of helplessness.

Not everything works, though. The filmmakers rely too heavily on music stabs and jumps, the soft rock soundtrack is curious, and a handful of tropes—the asthma inhaler, in particular—give the film a less-than-inspired feel.

But plenty of tense moments and creepy images punctuate the heartbreaking, age-old cautionary tale about getting what you wish for.