Monday, October 30, 2017

El Eens We El Gen (1985)

Genies are often portrayed in Western media as either lovable goofballs, or forces of good, and at the very worst, perhaps an example of Monkey's Paw style stories. We don't often see them as outright villains though, ...

Fatma is a young woman returning home to Egypt after some time away, having mourned the death of her boyfriend in a car accident. She's started seeing someone new, and things seem to be going fine, until she starts having strange encounters with an off putting man. He soon reveals him to be a menacing Jinn, deadset on ensuring Fatma doesn't marry...

El Eens We El Gen is quite a good watch! It's not without issues, however. You'll see right away why the film is nearly 134 minutes long. Extended scenes of characters standing or sitting around, talking. Not by a huge deal, but when you have a few scenes like this, it all adds up, and before you know it, 'Whoops, we made a two-and-a-half hour film!'. The overall good quality of the movie saves it though, and while it is too long, it's not excruciatingly so.

The story starts a bit slowly, but not too much, knowing when to dip us into the deep end. I found what was happening interesting, and the pacing really good, helped by the actors. I found the early-on flashback to be a little overdramatic at first, but it has some really great imagery, from the locale of a simple date in Egypt, to the surreal nightmare that jolts us back to the present day.

The plot does start to get repetitive after a while. The Jinn menaces Fatma, demanding she obey him. She doesn't, but everyone thinks she's crazy with all her talk of Jinns. She gets on with her life, then the Jinn menaces her again, demanding she obey him, and you get the picture. It's tiresome to see the same thing happening over and over. The movie breaks out of this for the climax, thankfully, and it's quite satisfying for the most part, though a bit anticlimactic at the end.

The movie does also get a bit frustrating with how nobody believes Fatma, and I was especially annoyed when she's crafty enough to use a tape recorder, and when she listens to it, it plays the full conversation between her and the Jinn, but as soon as she shows it to the authorities it suddenly becomes a one sided conversation. You'd also think she'd learn not to call people over to see the destruction the Jinn has caused when she knows it'll be gone before she can show them. It also also seemed strange that at some points it seems like people believe Fatma about the Jinn, then they don't, then they do, then they don't. Fatma's own mood seems to change often too. She'll go from being nervous and terrified to all smiles in the span of a single scene change.

While I was fine for the most part, not understanding the language did start to have a detrimental effect after a while, so if you decide to watch this movie, I really recommend finding a copy with subtitles.

The effects on display here are good! The majority of them are related to the Jinn and his powers, such as the freaky way he hovers or floats. These are achieved by not showing his feet (presumably on rollerskates), and by sometimes visible strings, but despite being able to tell easily enough how these were accomplished, they're effective in showing him as an unnatural force. It's also creepy how he often either just strolls into a room without warning, or simply appearing (for example, two characters talk, he's clearly not in the room, then BAM, we see him seated in a chair menacingly). The great lighting really helps too. Some scenes, especially near the end, look interestingly abstract, and are realized well, thanks to some creative set design! Finally, there's one scene where a chicken is sacrificed, and it isn't really killed! Phew, given Egyptian cinema's track record with these things, I was seriously afraid for that fowl's life!

Once or twice, there's a jumpscare, specifically the aforementioned 'inconsiderate friend' one I mentioned in my previous review, but it's acknowledged to be the friend actively messing with the lead, rather than how everyone in other horrors just do it as if it's a normal way of getting someone's attention, and for that reason it's a bit more welcome than it otherwise would have been.

The acting is good all round. Adel Imam is great as the antagonist. As well as looking creepy as hell, he also exudes a very swinging 70s playboy vibe, somehow!  sometimes takes the form of an adorably evil cat.

=== does quite well as the beleaguered yet proactive and steadfast heroine. I was impressed by her character! How many people could talk back to the evil genie they're deathly afraid of? Unfortunately though she doesn't contribute anything to the climax. Also, maybe it's just the lighting, but I could've sworn her hair changes colour from scene to scene, sometimes looking blonde, other times orange!

I was very pleased when === showed up   He doesn't do much for the majority of the film though, and his character's a bit boring. Unfortunately he does contribute to the climax! The rest of the acting is ok, though the guy playing the magic priest who shows up later on is pretty bad, amusingly so.

One sort-of complaint I have isn't really a mark on the movie, or even the actors themselves, but rather an observation, and one shared by many other Arabic countries-Egyptians really do talk too fast sometimes!

The soundtrack to El Eens We El Gen is pretty good. The most used track is whenever characters are threatened by the Jinn, and it's neat, sounding a bit like malevolent circus music. It's good, but it gets a little too positively bombastic at times, like if for a brief moment the composer forgot they were scoring a horror film. Thankfully it's never bad, nor overused.

One odd scene was at a nightclub, with what resembles a carrot top Village People burlesque number! They also wear devilish themed outfits, too, with the scene acting as a lengthy segue to a Cinderella style freak-out and escape by Fatma.

El Eens We El Gens is a good film, and a great example of what horror cinema in Egypt can be. In fact, most of the movies I looked at this month from the region show that fact off. I'm glad that the genre did manage to take off, and I'm hopeful that the decades since have seen further improvements to the genre and its status. As for El Gen, I recommend it if you have an interest in foreign horror media...

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