'The Possession' is weird, narrow 0
Still of Natasha Calis in The Possession. (Lionsgate)
Every movie has something to teach us. The lesson from The Possession is simple: Don't open the damned box!
When I say "damned" I am not being profane. The box in The Possession houses a husky-voiced demon. This is not a spoiler. The demonic possession is established in the violent opening scene and ... duh! ... the title is not exactly off-topic.
The Possession was directed by Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) and produced by American horror specialist Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead franchise established his credentials before Spider-Man). Their collaboration is an English-language horror thriller set in an American town, although Bornedal shot it in Vancouver. It chronicles what happens after a 10-year-old girl visits a yardsale with her father, who is reluctantly divorcing her mother, heightening the emotional carnage to come.
The girl (Natasha Calis) convinces Dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who looks like Javier Bardem's twin) to buy her a mysterious wooden box with carvings on its surface and a hidden lock that makes it obvious you should not open the damned box. The girl takes her possessed possession to Dad's new house. Mom (Kyra Sedgwick) is not consulted. Hell-on-Earth will soon emerge.
Within its narrow genre of demonic possession, The Possession is a bantamweight. It is reasonably entertaining, however, despite logic lapses and lack of vision in designing the big finale. The early emergence of the demon and her indicators, such as the mass of moths, is evocative. If only that kind of restrained but creepy vision had been carried through. The acting is decent, especially from Morgan and Calis. Sedgwick's thankless role is unwritten.
Not incidentally, director Bornedal obviously admires William Friedkin's 1973 classic, The Exorcist. So he boldly stole some good stuff, like the slow build-up of the family saga. The movie is not just a freak-out. One reason is that The Possession is obviously a metaphor for divorce and its affect on children. The other reason is that Bornedal, inspired by The Exorcist, realized that atmosphere and angst are more effective than the gross brutality of contemporary horror flicks.
The religious overtones are interesting. The Exorcist is a Catholic saga. The Possession is a Jewish version. The box houses a dybbuk from Jewish folklore. This is a malevolent spirit thought to be a dispossessed soul. In the movie, she is looking for a new host --like an innocent, 10-year-old American girl. Jewish culture is respected. A young Jewish rabbi (portrayed by singer Matisyahu) is one of the movie's heroes.
A real-life story fired up Hollywood's imagination for this project. A box that once belonged to a Holocaust survivor was purchased at an estate sale in 2001 and then later offered for re-sale on eBay, complete with a chilling, supernatural story. Even the reproduction box made for the movie has a weird history. After filming wrapped, the Vancouver building storing the props burned down and everything, including the dybbuk box, was destroyed.
As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. But the movie is weird enough.
This movie is rated 14A.