Since the anniversary theatrical re-release of The Exorcist
a few years ago, stories about young girls taken over by some demonic entity have steadily occupied big screens. The primitive tales of good vs. evil are no longer limited to Halloween either. The Possession
is a late summer release that takes its cues from its successful predecessor before branching off independently.
Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport) recently became children of divorce. Their parents, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), are amicable but no longer capable of being a couple. She's moving on with a new boyfriend, while he's moved from his small apartment to a newly built house. Clyde's daughters suggest they begin to furnish the mostly bare rooms by stopping at a nearby yard sale. As Hannah focuses on the task at hand, Em comes across what appears to be an antique jewelry box. After a couple of days, Em begins to act strangely. The logical explanation is she is cracking under the stress of the divorce. The more likely cause is the ancient, malicious spirit that resides in Em's new box.
The story begins subtly by introducing audiences to the family and exploring their situation. Clyde's career as a basketball coach reinforces the reason for his divorce and Stephanie's always-present lover is usually the subject of humor or annoyance; Hannah is a normal teen attached to her cell phone and Em is the picture of innocence - apparently the ideal host for the demon. Even as Em's odd behavior begins, the intensity of her outbursts increase gradually. She slowly becomes obsessed with the box making it stronger and more dangerous. But as the end nears the threat becomes more corporeal, actually losing some of its impact.
Borrowing from popular Asian horror, the camera often hovers above locations in a rotating aerial view, which is unsettling - and somewhat dizzying. In addition, the conclusion has a lot of flashing lights not recommended for those susceptible to seizures. There is some very clever camera work when a possessed Em torments her mother in the kitchen, twisting her image through glass jars. Her reflection is also distorted in mirrors throughout the film.
Morgan seems unable to escape the supernatural, but the genre truly suits him. Calis is impressive for a young actress portraying the many personalities of her character. Though the deep, demonic voice is sometimes ineffective, her overt rage and creepiness work well. Matisyahu enters later in the film as a rabbi willing to help, bringing a different perspective to the narrative and the genre.
This film’s biggest downfall is its promotional trailer. The least enjoyable aspect of watching the picture was not being surprised by what would have been the more startling elements because they were all featured in the trailer. If you can avoid watching any of the promo spots prior to viewing the film, your experience will be the better for it.
Director: Ole Bornedal
Starring: Natasha Calis
, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
and Kyra Sedgwick