The Possession

The Possession


Reviewed by: David Graham

Sam Raimi's Ghost House production studio felt like a sure thing for horror fans upon inception ten years ago, bearing fruit with its successful adaptations of The Grudge and 30 Days Of Night. The company's roster soon started spilling over with disposable dreck however, such as the execrable Boogeyman series and unnecessary Grudge sequels; only Raimi's own glorious return to his roots with Drag Me To Hell has seen his would-be fear factory claw back any credibility. Cynically cashing in on the success of no-budget sleepers Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism and Insidious, this latest offering from the studio boasts a bloated budget and capable cast, but it's even more laughably inept than last year's woeful Anthony Hopkins vehicle The Rite, marking a disappointing Western debut for once-promising Nightwatch director Ole Bornedal.

A recently separated father's yard sale pit-stop sees his youngest daughter picking up a strange, seemingly innocuous wooden box, to which she soon develops an unhealthy attachment. As Em and her sister bounce between their acrimonious parents, the box and its contents begin exerting an unsettling influence on the family, leading to supernatural manifestations that could prove deadly. Initially seeking the help of psychiatrists and hospitals, the family eventually turn to Jewish rabbis who reveal their bounty to be a dibbuk box containing a malevolent spirit, leading to an unholy showdown with the beast that now inhabits Em and threatens to consume her soul.

Copy picture

After the relatively low-key thrills of the aforementioned recent hits, the overly glossy feel and distractingly elaborate camera-work of The Possession automatically scuppers any atmosphere that might have been generated. The bland domestic settings are never established well enough to build any tension, and having two of them merely dilutes the potential scares that drives claustrophobic horror. The entity inside Em is never really glimpsed until the end, and the way in which it possesses her is ridiculously derivative and cliched; apart from some imaginative shots of fingers reaching up from inside throats, it's all bog-standard thrift-store eye-shadow, diabolically un-threatening snarling and swarms of harmless CGI insects.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan brings his usual world-weary gravitas and twinkly charm to a pretty thankless role, but his character never really feels involved with his daughter's plight, realising ludicrously late that her behaviour might just be more than pre-pubescent anxiety. Kyra Sedgwick joins a disheartening line of underwritten and poorly performed horror film housewives of late, her obnoxious attitude towards her husband coming off as borderline chauvinistic scripting rather than a fleshing out of her character and their relationship. Crucially, the young actresses playing their daughters aren't up to much either, with Natasha Calis failing to muster the intensity essential for us buying into her demonic disturbance.

An over-egged score and under-developed mythology also leave the film with a soggy, bland aftertaste; David S Goyer's patchy chiller The Unborn covered the dybbuk legend in much more detailed and unsettling fashion, and seems like a masterpiece in comparison to this. Despite the casting of charismatic hip-hop artist Matisyahu in the traditional Father Karras role, there's a desperate lack of authenticity to the Hasidic world the script attempts to delve into, leaving the climactic face-off feeling like not only a pastiche of superior pictures, but a lampooning piss-take transposed onto an incongruous religious background.

The Possession's ruthless marketing campaign will no doubt see its target audience taking the bait without asking questions, such is the current clamouring for this kind of nonsense, but in reality this represents a new nadir for an increasingly nose-diving genre. Even The Devil Inside offered some decent drama and found footage chills; this is merely content to spew sacrilegiously watered-down bile upon its forebears, further tarnishing the reputation of Raimi (who's been embarassingly busy plugging the picture) and his shameful production company.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2012
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The Possession packshot
An antique box unleashes doom on a young girl.
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Director: Ole Bornedal

Writer: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Natasha Calis, Agam Darshi, Grant Show, Matisyahu, Quinn Lord, Amanda Dyar, Rob LaBelle, John Cassini, Erin Simms, Nana Gbewonyo, Jim Thorburn, Anna Hagan

Year: 2012

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2012

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