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The Possession – 5


Director – Ole Bornedal

Cast – Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Jay Brazeau, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu, Grant Show

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I was not very interested in seeing The Possession after viewing its initial trailer, and for numerous reasons. For starters, despite my love for Sam Raimi I have a love/hate relationship with Ghost House Pictures, in which I love some of their films and do not love others. Aside from that the film appeared to be the usual possessed girl / exorcism cliched nonsense we have been doused with for years, but nonetheless I figured I’d give this a watch so I can get the review over with. I did not go into the film with low expectations and I did definitely did not go in with high expectations, I went in to see where the film would take me and despite some surprisingly good elements of horror, I still found this a bland effort in the end.

When his youngest daughter falls in love with an antique box at a yard sale, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Watchmen, Dead & Breakfast) finds nothing peculiar about her sudden passion and buys the box for the young Em (Natasha Calis). Soon after acquiring the box Em begins to exhibit strange, violent, and disturbing behavior to those around her. Clyde and his ex wife / Em’s mother Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) figure she is just lashing out over adjusting to their divorce, but as Em slowly succumbs to whatever is eating at her they learn there is something much more sinister going on than they imagined and they must work together to save their daughter.

Not only was not very interested in seeing this film to begin with, I was even more disappointed with this piece before viewing it when I learned that its original cut was Rated R and was then recut to a PG-13 rating. Why? Well, more teens = more money. I really cannot say what was cut from the film and how much better the film (if any) would have been if we had been given the R-rating, but nonetheless I really hate that so many modern day horror flicks are toned down to turn a bigger profit. And we question why American horror sucks these days.

The story takes off rather quickly, giving us a glimpse of the horrors that come with the antique box and the eventual purchase of the box by Em’s father. It does not take long for her behavior to become erratic, and as the film progresses she slowly succumbs to the danger within the box – a danger that chose her specifically. What is in the box? Well, after doing some research Clyde learns that the particular box in his daughter’s possession is meant to contain a dibbuk, which is a dislocated demon that inhabits and eventually consumes its innocent host. I really liked the idea of this having to do with Judaisim and not the usual Catholicism element where a priest performs an exorcism while screaming verses from The Bible. In this piece we are instead given a rabbi, Tzadok (Matisyahu), who after seeing Clyde’s guilt and grief agrees to take on Em’s case and try to rid her of the malevolent demonic parasite. So how was the horror in this piece? Well, it really was not bad and did come with a few good scenes. I enjoyed the “exorcism” scene involving Tzadok and a few of the kills directly involved to the box, however we are also presented with the usual shitty cliché jump scares that had little effect on myself and my fellow theater patrons. Sadly, while the horror was decent the rest of the film was pretty bland and showed poor writing execution. Writing duo Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, the writers behind Boogeyman and Knowing, are credited with writing this film, and I must say that for having writing experience I was disappointed in their output. There is horrible character play, which includes numerous unlikable characters (Clyde and Tzadok were the only likable ones of the bunch), including several completely useless characters that should have provided more to the film to suit the screen time they received.

So how was the direction of the film? Well, Ole Bornedal did well but sadly not well enough to give me a positive experience. The atmosphere was great and it was obvious that Sam Raimi had a hand on the film more than his usual Ghost House Pictures, with a creepy score and his excellent usage of atmospheric sounds to frighten the viewer. Bornedal’s portrayal of the unlikable characters did nothing to sell them to me and instead only had me even more disappointed in their acting execution. The execution of the horror was decent, and aside from the pathetic and cliché jump scares Raimi’s touch on the horror was felt and it made for the best scenes the film had to offer. I will admit that the film paced very well and the editing was positive, showing that Ole Bornedal does have talent, which some of you may have noticed if you viewed his previous film (also a Ghost House film) The Substitute, but his talent was never fully present in this piece and it showed.

Overall, The Possession is an atmospheric effort that comes with a few horror positives but sadly suffers from poor writing and mediocre execution.

Rating: 5/10

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  1. September 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I absolutely hate when they cut films to meet a specific rating criteria. Great review, I’m glad I read it before I saw the movie. I have been debating on how to feel about it based on trailers alone. Its a real shame the writing suffered, the concept seems interesting enough. Perhaps the DVD release will come complete with the original uncut R version.

    • September 6, 2012 at 1:38 am

      Thank you Madame, thank you. I would wait for either DVD or discount theater prices to see this as it is pretty much hit/miss with the majority of those who have given it a watch. Hopefully the DVD includes the original and “intended” cut, but would that be too little too late? Ugh, for me it would be. I spent 9 bucks on this one.

  2. Ed
    September 6, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I’ve always been a big fan of horror movies. Unfortunately, I did not like “The Possession” as much as I could have. The “scary” scenes were not scary, and quite frankly, when it comes to movies, jewish exorcisms have nothing on Catholic ones. Catholic exorcisms (at least on film) are much more elaborate and somehow, someway, appear to make the “unbelievable”, believable. This was not the case with “The Possession”. All in all, the movie was flat, and I found myself yawning approximately 30 minutes into the movie. Too bad!

    • September 6, 2012 at 1:39 am

      Yeah this definitely could have been a better watch. I enjoyed the Jewish element simply because it was different, but you are right about the Catholic ones being more dramatic and engaging to the viewer. Oh well, Halloween season is coming up so hopefully we get some good horror to hit the big screen.

  3. September 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Yes, this will be a redbox rental for me. I saw a pretty decent horror film today on cable called Mirrors 2 (I saw the first one a few years back). I have to say, the kill scenes in it were fantastic, made me cringe a bit lol. The story wasn’t great, but the blood and gore was.

    • September 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Oh wow, I would not have expected a good effort from the DTV Mirrors 2 but I will take your word for it and give it a look, at least for the kills.

      • September 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

        Yes, it was a surprise to me too how fantastically gruesome it was.

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