Movie Review: Possession
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Imagine taking the most well-known stereotypes of demonic possession movies and amassing them all into one film, suppressing any desire to form original content. The product is director Ole Bornedal’s generic and predictable “The Possession.”
The movie starts off rather well by setting up a scene with an old woman staring at a small, wooden box. Her fascination with the object only heightens the mystery until she brushes her hair, pulling out a large clump of it. She walks back up to the box, hammer in hand, and aims to smash the object. What occurs next can only be described as a stampede of invisible wildebeest (à la “The Lion King”) as the woman is crushed, broken, and thrown around the room. The suspense disappears instantly as this unintentionally hilarious scene finishes.
The plot of “The Possession” begins with a family’s trip to a yard sale. Recent divorcé Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who has his daughters Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport) for the weekend, takes them to the sale where the box instantly catches Em’s eye. She becomes obsessed with the object as she attempts to find a way of opening it. Finally successful, Em discovers an assortment of peculiar objects inside, including a tooth, dead moths, a ring and a mirror.
The box is revealed to be a “dibbuk box” of Jewish folklore, which serves as a prison for an evil spirit. As Em opens the box, the dibbuk begins fighting for control of her body and horror ensues. As the spirit grows in power, Em begins to develop more violent tendencies and stabs her father with a fork and throws glassware at her mother (Kyra Sedgwick). In addition to the series of attacks, Clyde finds her sitting on her bed surrounded by hundreds of moths, unfazed by what is around her. Finally, it is up to the father to exorcise the demon, with the help of a Hasidic Jew (Matthew Miller, better known as Matisyahu).
What makes “The Possession” ineffective, however, is how predictable it is. It resembles other possession movies too much without offering anything new. It is hard to appreciate the movie when “The Exorcist,” “The Omen” and “Rosemary’s Baby” did something almost identical but much better, roughly 40 years in the past. Similar problems with predictability exist within individual scenes as well. The jump scares are too expected and ultimately end up being almost comical in their efforts to be disturbing. Take the scene of Em brushing her teeth, for instance. Due to repeatedly gagging on something, she keeps checking her throat with a flashlight. The music builds up. She repeats the check several times, still building up suspense, and finally, she finds a hand coming out of her throat.
But the movie is not all bad. From a technical aspect, “The Possession” looks great. The cinematography certainly deserves recognition. The shots were well-planned with excellent zooming and remarkable use of shadows and lights. The acting is surprisingly good as well, especially given the poor script. But in this case, a good-looking movie cannot make up for all its faults.
Ultimately, “The Possession” proves to be quite forgettable. While it does provide several entertaining scenes, this entertainment is often not received in the manner intended. What we are left with is a movie that is too silly to be scary, too generic to be exciting and takes itself too seriously for how little it offers.