August 31, 2012
Juliet Snowden and Stiles White
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Clyde
Natasha Calis as Em
Kyra Sedgwick as Stephanie
Jay Brazeau as Professor McMannis
Madison Davenport as Hannah
Matisyahu as Tzadok
Possession has been a popular theme for horror for decades, and seemingly more so as found footage and indie horror has gotten more mainstream play. There is one common theme through a great many of these films, and that is a reliance on the Catholic version of exorcism and possession. Catholics don’t have a corner on that market though, and Judaism gets into the act with 2012’s The Possession.
Times are tough for Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a workaholic basketball coach with aspirations for the big leagues – his wife left him for failing to be “present” and he spends the weekends with his daughters who are still pining for the day that mom and dad get back together. A new house for Dad helps things a bit; at least they aren’t cramped in a small apartment. Typically, when a new house is involved, the groundwork for the appearance of unhappy spirits and demons is set – we have seen this concept a million times. This one has a bit of a twist as the new house prompts Clyde and his daughters to stop at a yard sale for dishes – and a wooden box for sale captivates young Em (Natasha Calis) and she takes it home. A wooden box with strange symbols carved into it always means trouble.
As the days pass on Em becomes more attached to this wooden box, and begins to change. Something has been released, and it wants to live…
The Possession covers a story that has been done a lot – the possession of a young girl by an evil entity. The execution of this story, however, has several surprises and twists on the age-old theme. First of all, the religious basis for this film is Judaism rather than Catholicism. Many don’t know much about the seedier side of the Jewish faith, but it certainly exists here as it does in most all other religions. The treatment of the ancient spirits and methods of their containment from ancient times is very interesting… I don’t know if it is based on fact or completely fabricated, but it is interesting nonetheless.
The main characters in The Possession are refreshing too – different than the characters one usually finds in horror. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a very working-class type of guy, pretty normal as a collegiate basketball coach. Not in itself so unique, but this particular character is just different than we’ve come to expect, and that makes him more interesting. The rest of the characters are also pretty normal and real, rather than “movie characters”, and that was good. The acting performances themselves were certainly passable and effective, though not spectacular.
Finally, the use of FX was very good. Nothing over the top, except in a few specific instances where warranted. A complaint I’ve had about many horror movies that use CGI and practical effects regularly is that those effects are over-used and therefore become less and less impactful. I used to think the same thing about Miriah Carry and her singing (I guess I’m dating myself) – she can hit notes in the stratosphere, but if an entire song happens up there, there’s no power at all. Just hit those notes for dramatic effect at strategic points through the song, and you can get a “wow factor”. It’s the same thing with FX in my opinion. The Possession heeds this advice.
Overall The Possession is good character-driven horror. The pacing may seem a bit slow for some because so much time is spent making sure the audience knows these characters and cares about what happens to them. Kind of like the olden days. So nice when you are on this earth long enough for old-time standards to come back around and actually seem like a breakthrough-concept.