August 26, 2014
Shane Johnson as Michael King
Cara Pifko as Samantha
Julie McNiven as Beth King
I fried on the possession and haunting films some time ago. Therefore when I receive a picture of even remotely similar ilk, my stomach turns and I become agitated. Frustrated by a film fated to suck because all of these movies play out as carbon copies of one another. The Possession of Michael King arrived on my doorstep and all that could be mustered was a head shake of discontent. But this is what I do. I watch, study, admire and just plain geek out over horror films because, well, it’s just in my blood. You either love horror, or you don’t. That love for horror is what enables me to swallow preconceived notions and extend a fair shake to a film I’m having serious doubts about.
The Possession of Michael King had to be taken in with an open mind. It’s never fair to a filmmaker to approach his project with negative thoughts swirling about the brain. And while it can be hard to wipe the mental slate clean in advance of some screenings, it can be done, as evidenced by my examination of The Possession of Michael King. It was time to temporarily forget the Haunting of Molly Hartley’s and the Possession of David O’Reilly’s and open my mind to Michael King’s plight. Which as it just so turns out, is tremendously harrowing.
Michael King is a guy who has it all. A stable life, a stunning wife and a gorgeous little girl. He’s got a nice home and a friendly dog. And then it all turns to shit when a freak accident leaves Michael a widow. In his time of grief Michael decides to look into some of the things his wife believed in, even if he didn’t. At the forefront of things, religion. Heaven and Hell. Proof of the supernatural. Thus begins a mission to prove that neither God nor Satan exist. But this journey will not provide Michael with the answers he expects. There are other entities that exist, and they’re about to wage war for the sanity and soul of the naïve King.
The synopsis, while very accurate, does not do the film justice. Unlike the majority of these religious flicks, The Possession of Michael King isn’t entirely generic. It does feature some of the cliché maneuvers we’ve come to expect, like contorting bodies or bodies flying through the air, propelled by a violent and unseen force. But there are a lot of great things about this movie. The relationship factor of the film, which plays out through a series of video viewings of Michael’s wife Samantha before she lost her life, when everything seemed so normal. There’s an honest reaction in Michael to these videos, and there’s a warmth in Samantha’s character that compels us to actually look into the emotional side of the story rather than the darker side solely. There are also some excellent shots (they don’t always fit convincingly into the found footage format, I should note) that ring is rather eerie. The camera work just isn’t conventional in any way, and that too elevates the overall quality of the picture.
While there are a few characters present in the film, the burden of impressing really falls on Shane Johnson, who plays the titular character. He is the film. And he does an astounding job of transforming from a warm guy, to a depressed and jaded guy to a possessed murdering lunatic with a flair for self-mutilation. His religious taunts and temptations are something one might see in a mourning individual. His dry, numb outlook on life is also rather accurate, as is his disregard for physical health. These are plausible responses from someone who has lost the love of their life. Not many of these movies can nail that believable aspect. Writer/director David Jung however is successful in manufacturing something that feels palpable.
The Possession of Michael King isn’t the greatest possession film in existence, and it isn’t the greatest film to see release this year. However, it’s vastly superior to most other possession flicks, and it stands up fairly well from the found footage perspective as well. Viewers should find some pleasure in a few unnerving scenes and a few gory sequences, and the lack of CG work (it exists, but it isn’t remotely near as abused as it is in features like Grave Encounters, for example) is a big point winner as well. To be succinct, The Possession of Michael King far surpasses expectations, and earns a solid recommendation from me.