The Possession (2012)
Directed by: Ole Bornedal
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu, Grant Show, Rob LaBelle, Nana Gbewonyo, Anna Hagan, Brenda Crichlow, Jay Brazeau
1/2 (out of 4)
Great. Next she’ll be smoking Djarum and listening to The Cure.
An old woman tries to destroy a strange looking box with Hebrew lettering when her ass is completely kicked by an unseen entity. Cut to basketball coach Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) coming out of a divorce with Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), who maintains custody of their two girls Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). At a weekend yard sale, Em falls in love with the box, which has a very peculiar opening mechanism. Of course Em is gonna figure out how to open it, which leads to – well, you see the title? Actually, The Possession is a formulaic demon flick that owes more to the killer-ghosts of J-Horror than the soul-searching and pea-soup spewing of The Exorcist. But it happens to be particularly well-executed and well-acted, making its predictability easier to forgive.
The Box! You opened it… Et cetera, Et cetera…
The fact that it features a Dybbuk (dibbuk) as the supernatural foil is new. Well, OK, it’s only new to me, since I have not seen 2009’s The Unborn. The basic definition of a dybbuk is that of a malevolent spirit of a deceased person that can possess a host. Once little animal-lover Em opens the box, she’s soon acting goth and then raiding the fridge for raw steaks like a feral child. Everyone is clueless, of course, attributing Em’s strange behavior to the effects of the divorce. Will Clyde get blamed for not paying enough attention? Will a hospital MRI reveal something freaky? Will Clyde seek help from some rabbis in the city? You already know the answer.
I told you, I don’t roll on Shabbos!
Actually, the whole point of The Possession, it seems to me, is to put loving but absentee father Clyde through a difficult trial with his daughter so he can come out on the other side of it with the understanding that his family is way more important than his burgeoning career as a basketball coach. First he’ll have to discover the truth about the box that Em can’t be without – there’s a little matter of the romantic foil (Grant Show playing the wife’s new dentist boyfriend) but that’s taken care of in a scene that’s a bit disturbing for anybody who ever has dreams of their teeth falling out. The ending, set in a physical therapy ward in the basement of a hospital, puts a Jewish spin on an exorcism but I still had to laugh at Clyde’s pleading with the demon “Take me!” To his credit, Jeffrey Dean Morgan tries to channel Jason Miller as best he can, but The Possession doesn’t possess the chutzpah to actually take him out.
Being possessed by a demon is no excuse not to do your calisthenics.
I may sound hard on The Possession, but there are some things I liked about it. Natasha Calis is very good in this and I think the young actress has a nice career ahead of her. Jewish actor Matisyahu, while only making an appearance towards the end, plays the exorcist part well. There’s also a few creepy scenes of a demon trying to force its way out of Em’s body physically (fingers coming out of a throat, for instance). When I noticed that Sam Raimi was a producer on this, I wasn’t too surprised, because I get a little vibe of Drag Me to Hell here as well. The Possession wins no awards for originality but it’s paced well, directed well (by Danish director Ole Bornedal), and acted well.
– Bill Gordon
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Talk to the hand because the face … well, you know.