The Possession – 3 out of 5
Every time I review a supernatural film that is supposedly based on true events, I feel the need to establish that I don’t believe in anything supernatural. Ghosts, ghouls, demons, angels, gods, devils, the female orgasm or the concept that non-douche bags use Axe body spray are just things that exists solely in the world of fiction. When I’m home alone and I hear a noise, my mind goes towards the simple. I think, "Oh, that’s either our two dogs or our cat," and I don’t go towards the "There must be a spirit in the house." My girlfriend is the opposite and is one who believes in that stuff and her minds goes to those places—we’re a ying and yang couple. However, like I say all the time, even though I don’t believe in these things I do think they make for great stories and The Possession was a fairly decent representation of why these things can be interesting.
|Okay...that is actually really creepy.|
Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are recently separated and Clyde finds himself getting a new house so he can provide a stable home for his two daughters; Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). At a garage sale near this new home, Em becomes infatuated with a strange wooden box and Clyde buys it for her. Soon, the box starts whispering to Em and it’s revealed that it contains a violent spirit, called a dybbuk, that wishes to inhabit Em’s body. Now Clyde must team with a young holy man named Tzadok (Matisyahu) in order to banish the dybbuk back to the box and save his daughter.
|Man, if only there was some all powerful creator watching over us to stop demons|
so we wouldn't need to trap them in wooden boxes...
My hopes for this film were not the highest due to some bad word of mouth I heard before I sat down with it. The fact it is just another name on a long list of supernatural horror/possession films that claim it’s based on real events was just another hit that gave me cause to worry. I don’t buy any of the "based on a real events" films because, usually if you do a little digging, you find out that 90% of these claims are either total bullshit based on complete hearsay (or made up completely in order to get a book or movie deal) or the writer and production took a single aspect of the story they are adapting and wrote a complete mythology based on that single thing…and, often, that single thing is a minute detail. So, needless to say, I wasn’t foaming at the mouth with excitement to watch this film but I was a little surprised by the final result.
|He's in the middle of an exorcism and the demon pushes furniture at him so he stubs his|
toe. That demon is pure evil in every sense of the word.
You can tell by my score that I didn’t think The Possession was spectacular—it has its problems. There are some plot points I had a problem with; like how easily the character of Clyde believes his daughter is being tormented by a demon despite the fact he never really sees anything that couldn’t be explained with science or the fact that his daughter could be acting out because of the family drama going on. Additionally, there is a boyfriend character played by Grant Snow who is removed from the story in a weak way and it’s never established what happens to him after he leaves. Granted, his existence in the story is meant to show that Stephanie is moving on and it kinda/sorta pays off when you see Clyde still cares for Steph and isn’t too happy with another man moving in on his wife but this drama feels unnecessary since it never really takes off and doesn't add anything. Ultimately, the boyfriend character just feels like he was put in for no other reason than to have two creepy scenes with the demon taking over Em—but those scenes don’t pay off in anyway where it creates substance for the film or characters. He could have easily been rewritten into a housekeeper or family friend and have provided the same outcome…and, not to mention that if they went that route, you wouldn’t have the awkward final thoughts about what happened to the character and how (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Stephanie was so easily able to forget about him and get back with her husband.
|"My gums are bleeding! No, it's not from the demon but from my poor dental hygiene."|
As far as the scares in this film are concerned, they are pretty mediocre. They’re not bad, they’re all just way too telegraphed. The film doesn’t venture out into areas unseen by horror films and the end result from director Ole Bornedal are gags and jumps that can not only be seen coming a mile away but are just tired old scares that are no different than a million other horror films made over the decades. Bornedal stated that he was inspired by the subtlety of The Exorcist when filming this movie and, honestly, that inspiration is really only seen towards the end when they are trying to free Em from the demon. It would have been nice to see more subdued and subtle scares in this film but, instead, the film settled for the tired trope of the jump scare.
|"I wonder how my two demon hunting sons from my other family are doing...|
I could probably use their help."
At this point, I want to make it clear that I’m not just slinging hate at the film because, as you can see from my score, I didn’t think the film was entirely bad. There were things that just didn’t work for me but there were also items that I felt worked very well. For example, the entire cast is great. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is awesome and proves why he needs to be in more products and the children as Em and Hannah were very impressive. Finding talented child actors is really hard and had Em been played badly it would have destroyed the atmosphere and made a horror film into an accidental comedy. However, Natasha Calis was very good as Em and really made for some creepy moments.
|Horror movies have definitely proven to me that my decision to not be a father|
was a smart one.
The biggest highlight I enjoyed about this film was the actual exorcism to get the dybbuk demon out of Em. This sequence starts out pretty by the books and then ventures into predictable scare territory when Em escapes the ritual and Clyde has to chase her down but when the excrement really hits the fan and Tzadok is getting all godly on the demon in order to trap it back in the box is pretty amazing. The sequence is so well constructed with a cacophony of sound and a strobe effect that shows you just enough but obscures enough of the demon to make for a creepy scene (this also helps because the demon looks a little silly). This was easily the best moment in the film for me and it really helped stop this film from being something worse and maybe getting a 2 out of 5.
|The demon seems to just be a very pale short dude who is balding. What's scary about that?|
The sports car he'll eventually buy when he's 40?
The Possession isn’t the most memorable horror/demon possession film out there but it has elements that work. The story is your basic horror film affair but it's effective, the cast are all great, the visuals are fantastic, and the final sequence is really awesome. The film may falter with a plot that skips in places and the scares didn’t really do anything for me but the parts that work are functional enough that it kept the film from being boring or feeling the film was a waste of time.