As an attention-grabbing opening installment for what’s obviously intended as an ongoing horror franchise, “Jinn” fizzles. This ponderously paced, needlessly convoluted and altogether unexceptional thriller will be fortunate to reach beyond a thin sliver of undiscriminating genre fans with its bogus mythos about ancient evil spirits bent on world domination. The promise of a sequel during the closing credits seems, at best, unduly optimistic.
After a less-than-promising prologue in 1901 India, writer-director Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad moves his melodrama to contemporary Ann Arbor, Mich., where Shawn (Dominic Rains), a hunky auto designer, and Jasmine (Serinda Swan of TV’s “Graceland” and “Breakout Kings”), his beautiful wife, are unsettled by manifestations of, if not the supernatural, then extremely clumsy home invaders.
The secret behind the scattering of their furniture is revealed when the designer receives a decades-old message — so old, it’s on a VHS tape, not a DVD or flash drive — from his late father. The bad news: Shawn is the latest heir to a family curse pronounced by a malevolent strain of Jinn, ancient spirits that loom large in Arabic and Islamic mythology. The worse news: These ferocious Jinn, known also as Sheyanteen, will move in for the kill as soon as they discover Shawn is about to sire offspring.
You don’t need to be told that Jasmine is pregnant, do you?
As he steels himself to do battle with Sheyanteen forces, Shawn acquires a few helpful allies, including Gabriel (Ray Park), a benevolent Jinn who’s also a lethally effective martial artist; Father Westhoff (William Atherton), a sympathetic priest armed, when necessary, with a terrible swift sword to defend the righteous; and Ali (Faran Tahir), Shawn’s long-lost uncle, who spends much of the movie shackled to the floor of his room in a mental hospital.
Ultimately, however, Shawn must rely on the speed of his latest creation, a bitchin’ set of wheels aptly dubbed Firebreather, and his own prowess as a Jinn-kicking badass to protect his wife, save humanity and spawn a sequel. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
“Jinn” is the sort of contrived and slapdash potboiler in which a key supporting character apparently is killed in one scene, only to inexplicably reappear when needed a few reels later, and in which budgetary limitations are exposed by unimpressive special effects and a conspicuous lack of extras in street scenes.
Park and Atherton take acting honors with performances that slyly suggest they, too, appreciate the silliness of what they’re doing and saying. They are especially amusing during one of the few scenes in “Jinn” that are intentionally funny, when their characters compare and contrast religions in a conversation during the closing credits.