I have always been a fan of horror films, supernatural thrillers and yes even the recent found footage style films. Additionally, Exorcism and possession films have always been a favorite of mine however the majority of films with a possession theme seem to have an all too familiar story line. The Possession isn’t any different. Even the disclaimer about it being based on a true story… aren’t they all? (okay this one has a decent back story, see links at the bottom of this post)
I had high hopes for this film and right from the start I began my internal battle between rolling my eyes and appreciating what was unraveling on-screen. (side note, I have a history of being let down with Sam Raimi produced films.. Drag Me to Hell, Spiderman 3…) The initial scene of the film involves an old woman alone in her house who keeps hearing a creepy voice (sometimes it sang) coming from a box on a shelf. She walks up to it as if to open it, but then ignores it. The next time she approaches and goes away she returns to the kitchen and realizes that part of her hair has been cut off, or it is falling out… it is never really addressed. She gets pissed and grabs a hammer and rushes over to the box just as her son arrives at the house and is soon locked out by the spirit, which proceeds to beat the ever-loving crap out of the woman in a very audience laughable manner. I laughed. The entire theater laughed.
Then the story finally (which is actually one of the strong points of the film) begins. At the films core, or so it seems as of this point, is the story of a broken family: Recently divorced couple Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and their two daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Emma (Natasha Calis) who are all about a year in the process of moving on. The girls split their time between their parents and we see the tension and chemistry between the parents during their forced interaction dropping off and picking up their daughters.
The dialogue, initial pace of the plot and the main character performances in the film are really what start to set this film up for success. The audience is immediately drawn to care about this family and love the character of Clyde. His charm and sarcasm win you over and as the film goes on you learn that there is still something there between him and his ex-wife.
Clyde had just purchased a new home and brings his daughters there, as a surprise for the first time. At this point we aren’t sure how the supernatural box, evil spirit, makes its way into the plot. The next day the girls convince Clyde to stop at a yard sale to get essentials for the house which is where Emma discovers the box (which we later discover is a Dybukk box)
Emma,the youngest daughter, is immediately drawn to this box and takes it home with her. She begins to hear voices from the box and, after figuring out how to open it and finding all of its creepy contents inside, he soon becomes obsessed with the box. This obsession makes Emma become distant and violent. One morning she is staring at herself in a mirror inside the box at her desk and Clyde calls her down for breakfast. He has to go into her room and snap her out of a creepy trance to get her to come down. She finally joins them at the table and jabs a stack of pancakes into her mouth abnormally fast and when Clyde yells at her to stop she stabs his hand with a fork. (actually a really creepy, well shot scene). For some reason a red flag isn’t raised that something is incredibly wrong with Emma. HELLO SHE JUST STABBED HER FATHER WITH A FORK…. at this point shouldn’t you consider getting her checked out, let alone tend to your wounds?
Things progress at home. A a swarm of moths takeover Emma’s room and they call exterminators to take care of the problem. Fast forward to school: she brings the box with her to school and when a classmate steals her bag and opens it revealing the box Emma begins screaming and begins to attack the poor kid, smacking him across the face repeatedly. (insert audience shock and laughter here)
This is when the parents are called into school and start to realize that something is up with their daughter, initially blaming the divorce situation as an explanation even though they have their doubts because they have been divorced for the better part of a year. HELLO CLYDE! WHY DON’T YOU SPEAK UP HERE?
Here is some more rushed silly plot. Emma’s teacher (who is the worst actress i have ever seen) is alone in the classroom and is killed by the “box” when she is flung out the window. The father uses the internet to research the box after learning of its’ origin with an incompetent college professor. Clyde then reaches out to a group of Rabbi for help after attempting a exorcism himself on his daughter. The Rabbi all refuse to help him and dis miss his cries for help…Oy vey. Clyde leaves the meeting upest and the one young Rabbi (played by Matisyahu?!?!) runs out after him says it is his duty to help and goes with Clyde to exorcise his daughter. Of course!
Stephanie takes Emma to get an MRI, mom see’s images of demon inside daughter on the MRI screen (okay that scene is successfully creepy) BUT THE DOCTORS DO NOT REACT AT ALL. In fact they make no attempt to include the doctors or any hospital staff for the remaining duration of the film. Clyde soon shows up at the hospital with the young hip Rabbi and <insert crazy-serious attempt of a jewish exorcism here>. Having failed the initial exorcism Emma or the demon rather, since she is now fully possessed, runs off and the whole family chases after her through the creepy vacant hospital, getting separated and Clyde ends up alone with his demonicly possessed daughter in the morgue (alright, another well done, creepy scene).
And then there is a semi-predictable-PLOT TWIST (I won’t spoil EVERYTHING in this review) and then THE BIG ENDING HAPPENS… with an ever-so-familiar-and-predictable close and cliffhanger.
Blah. I really wanted to like this film and for the first 2/3 of the film I let some of the aspects I didn’t like (say, the awful film opening) slide. The last third of the film contained nothing but rushed stereotypical plot points of an overused sub-genre (demonic possession films) and a soundtrack that sounds like it was originally intended for a Jaw’s spinoff didn’t work at all. This movie, as a whole, is actually worth seeing (maybe as a rental, or maybe if you REALLY love the genre) because the initial story, actors and shooting style are really well done. It just loses momentum and balance a third of the way through and lets you down.