Wednesday, 11 September 2013
They Made Me Do It...Again! July 12-July 13 #2: The Possession (2012)
The Possession is a 2012 possession/exorcism film. Directed by Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Resident), Natasha Calis and Matisyahu. The film was produced by Sam Raimi's Ghost House pictures.The plot of The Possession is based on the infamous "Dybbuk box" eBay hoax in which Kevin Mannis claimed that the box was haunted by a Dybbuk (Hebrew for dislocated spirit) and had caused violent phenomena to all who owned it.
In the film the box is purchased by recent divorcee Clyde Brenek (Morgan) for his daughter Emily (Calis) in order to win brownie points and settle his daughters into his new home in a suburb right out of Poltergeist (1982). However soon after opening the box Emily begins to feel "not herself" and this soon develops into full blown possession, complete with accompanying moth swarms and violent outbursts. Clyde soon discovers the box's Hebrew origins and so enlists the help of Tzadok (Matisyahu), an Hasidic Jew and seemingly qualified exorcist, to drive the Dybbuk out of Emily's body.
The film has been described by many as the Jewish version of The Exorcist (1973) and although this seems a lazy description, it is a fairly accurate one. The Jewish/Hebrew take on the sub-genre, with accompanying mythology, is certainly a somewhat fresh approach to a very tired format and the creature design, much less the fact that you actually get to see the demon leave the body, is something rarely seen in cinema exorcisms. That being said, The Possession is a deeply generic film. All the possession tropes are there, little girl in a nightie, insect infestation and the always cheesy demon voice. If you like all those tropes then they're certainly employed to good effect and the film keeps within the strong tradition established by The Exorcist but personally I hoped for slightly more.
The film's main strength is it's high production values, particularly the special effects and excellent score, and it is a very slick, mainstream film in the best possible way. Standout use of effects include the fingers coming out of the throat (spoiled in the trailer) and the creepy, yet faintly ridiculous, appearance of the Dybbuk in the MRI scan. The score is utilised well to build tension through simple piano patterns and booming strings and scenes often begin with an eery Kubrick-esque ariel shot showing Bornedal's flare for creeping atmosphere.
All in all The Possession doesn't reinvent the wheel but plays as a solid possession/exorcist movie that is true to the sub genre while incorporating fresh elements of Jewish folklore and impressive special effects set pieces. Will be best enjoyed by people who really love or, conversely, have never seen a possession film but personally i don't fall into either camp.
*** 3 Stars
What did you think of The Possession? How do you think it ranks amongst other possession films?