Release Date: August 31, 2012
Director: Ole Bornedal
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis
Possessions and exorcisms are totally in this season. Between 2010’s The Last Exorcism, 2011’s The Rite and this year’s The Devil Inside, the multiplexes haven’t been short on screaming young girls with lank hair and contorted limbs. The latest addition to this never-ending stream of possession flicks comes, well, The Possession: yet another ‘based on a true story’ horror which on the surface promises to be much of the same. Sadly, it mostly fulfils that promise. Produced by Sam Raimi and directed by the underrated Ole Bornedal of Nightwatch fame, it is disappointing to see such talent go to waste on this supremely average fodder.
Everyone’s favourite Robert Downey Jr and Javier Bardem impersonator, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, plays Clyde: a recent divorcee and father of two pre-pubescent daughters. After taking his daughters to a yard sale, Emily (his youngest, played adequately by Natasha Calis) becomes infatuated with a large, ominous looking box: ‘It has no seams! Looks like whoever made this box didn’t want it to be opened’. No shit. Turns out it’s a Dybbuk box: an old Jewish device which traps possessive demons inside. Oops! What follows is fairly predictable: Emily’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as she develops an unnatural infatuation with the box, while everyone else reacts to the situation with mild confusion. In one hilarious scene, Emily suddenly and violently stabs Clyde in the hand with a fork, leading him to ask her mother if she’s noticed a change in Emily’s behaviour. ‘I don’t know, she’s been acting a bit weird lately. It must just be the divorce.’ Right, yeah. Must be that.
In fact, the film is full of hilariously misjudged moments like this, which coaxed a few sniggers from the audience. There were also a heap of abandoned plot threads: what happened to the mother’s new boyfriend, and why did nobody care? After Emily’s horrific MRI scan, why did all the doctors and nurses just disappear? And why all the moths? It was this reckless lack of detail that often caused The Possession to fall so flat.
Despite all this, there were still elements that were enjoyable. Morgan remains as likeable as ever, his performance giving surprising heart to a film that perhaps doesn’t deserve it . His relative newness as a (slightly older) leading man often contributes to him being in mediocre films, and it is arguably his television career (Supernatural and currently Magic City) that has done him the most justice. There were also a few genuinely creepy moments; the horrifying ‘revelation’ following the MRI scan, and Emily crying as she wrestles with the demon inside as it forces her to stuff her face with raw meat. Sadly, these moments were few and far between, and the ending was laughable and a complete let down. If you’re going to see it all, make sure you make it to a later screening. Preferably when drunk.