Possession: Nothing you haven’t seen before
Posted on Sep 11, 2012 in Features
Unlike the vampire and zombie subgenres, demonic possession films haven’t quite overstayed their welcome as of yet- though “The Devil Inside” certainly ticked off more than a few critics and filmgoers alike, thanks to that now infamous ending. I like the ongoing “Paranormal Activity” series just fine and look forward to the next one in October, and “The Last Exorcism” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” certainly had their moments. Though “The Possession” can’t resist leaving the door open for future installments, at least it’s somewhat based in reality.
The film’s source material is the legend of the Dybbuk box, which is grounded in Jewish folklore. Those who want to know more are directed to the not-so-suspiciously-timed recent episode of Syfy’s popular docudrama series, “Paranormal Witness,” in which the real-life events are portrayed as they had allegedly occurred.
“The Possession” is a more fictionalized version of the subject at hand, this being the movies and all. In the movie, a little girl finds a box at a yard sale- after it cripples the previous owner, who, of course, flips out when she sees it at the window being held by the movie’s main heroine. Fair warning! In no time, supernatural hijinks ensue.
The end result plays out like “The Amityville Horror” crossed with “Hellraiser.” From the former, we’ve got suburban life gone to hell in a record amount of time, including a creepy kid with an imaginary “friend” and mass insect infestation; from the latter, the spooky demon-in-a-box that haunts and tortures the one who opens it. There’s also an intriguing Jewish “Exorcist” vibe, complete with no less than perhaps the only Hasidic rapper/singer out there, Matisyahu, as the resident exorcist- or whatever they call it in its Jewish guise.
Ultimately, though it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and better- notably in the aforementioned films- “The Possession” does have a few things going for it. The cast is uniformly solid, including TV-vets Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Supernatural”) as a couple going through a nasty divorce with two daughters caught in the crossfire.
One daughter is the endearing Madison Davenport (“Shameless”) and the other is the unlucky winner of what’s inside the box, Natasha Calis (TV’s “The Firm”), who’s effectively creepy. Wait until you see her haul off and slap the crap out of a classmate who makes the mistake of trying to swipe her beloved box. Not pretty.
There’s also a nicely smarmy turn by Grant Show as the would-be stepfather with cleanliness issues. Things do not end very cleanly for him, needless to say. He is going to need more than a tube of Ultra-Brite to clean up that mouth.
That attention to neatness also extends to the look of the film, which forgoes the typical dilapidated surroundings of horror movies. This film is rather in favor of a nifty, near-clinical approach that is reminiscent of some of director David Cronenberg’s best work, particularly the likes of “Dead Ringers” and “The Fly.” This horror is set in the suburbs- a la “Poltergeist”- with modern-looking homes and spotlessly white hospitals. Sure, there are shadows wherever you go when there need to be, but I liked the more modern look of the film. It serves as a nice contrast to the typical torture décor presented in a lot of the post-Rob Zombie and “Saw” flicks favored by producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert (the endearing “Evil Dead” series, soon to be remade/rebooted by the team) for their Ghost House Pictures line. Their films can be hit-or-miss, though the sweet cinematography of Dan Laustsen (“Silent Hill”) here doesn’t hurt. This one is of a piece with their “Grudge” and “Messengers” series- not “The Boogeyman,” thankfully- and with the numbers “The Possession” is getting at the box office, you can pretty much count on the fact that there will be another of these as well. We’ll see about future installments, but for now, “The Possession” is solid enough to not be embarrassing for Raimi and Co. I wouldn’t pay full price for it, but it’s matinee-or-rental worthy, at the very least.