Directed by: Ole Bornedal
Premise: A family purchases a wooden box at a garage sale. When it is opened the box unleashes a demon that possesses the youngest daughter.
What Works: The Possession is a domestic horror film and it partly depends on the family dynamics to make it work, which they mostly do. The film opens with the parents finalizing a divorce and the roles are played convincingly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. Morgan is the lead character and among horror films it is unique to have an adult, let alone a father, as the lead. Morgan does a very good job in the role and he plays it straight as though his child was infected with a disease rather than a demon and that brings a lot of reality to this film that helps it considerably. Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport play the daughters and these two are also well cast. Both actresses have quite a bit of reality to them; they not precocious in the way children in movies often are and the script does the parent-child relationships well, especially in the midst of a divorce. Calis gets the bigger role and she plays the possession convincingly. As a possession film, the picture shows a modest amount of restraint in its use of computer imagery. A lot of recent pictures have used obvious digital effects to depict contortions and other imagery typical of demonic possession in film but computer generated imagery often disrupts this because digital effects look too plastic. Horror films often succeed if they are able to create visceral reactions on the part of the audience.The filmmakers of The Possession uses digital effects in mostly smart ways to create otherwise impossible visuals like eyes rolling in the sockets. The Possession is horror a film geared for the teenage audience and for them it may be serviceable, providing a few scares without being too traumatizing.
What Doesn’t: The Possession is mostly slickly made but it has a lot of disruptive and clumsy moviemaking. The editing is very choppy, especially in the sound and the music often dominates the audio track. The editors overuse the technique of cutting to black as a transition between scenes. It is effective at first but it soon becomes obnoxious and even unintentionally funny. The story of The Possession has not been very well thought out. Films about possession seem to suffer in their endings; even The Exorcist, which is rightly considered the standard bearer for the subgenre, has a troubled conclusion but it at least wraps up the story and affirms its themes of faith. The Possession is no Exorcist and in the end nothing is really resolved or affirmed. But what hurts The Possession the most is its familiarity. The trend in the horror genre right now is the possession thriller, especially films in which families are targeted by malevolent spirits. This trend started with Paranormal Activity and its sequels and continued with films like Drag Me to Hell, Insidious, The Rite, and The Woman in Black. The Possession is yet another “evil kid” movie in which parents must rescue their child from a demonic force but there is nothing here fresh here for regular horror viewers . In fact, there is a lot less because The Possession avoids anything risky and does not distinguish itself from so many similar features. Many fans disparage PG-13 horror films, and understandably so, but there are films rated less than R by the MPAA that are good and scary such as Jurassic Park, The Others, and Poltergeist. But successful horror relies on the filmmaker convincing the audience that he or she will cross all boundaries, reach into audience’s unconscious mind and pull out their nightmares. Even if the filmmakers don’t fully do that, the threat of it can often be enough but the filmmakers of The Possession aren’t the kind to cross those barriers and so the film is never really frightening.
Bottom Line: The Possession is another underwhelming haunted house picture. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t at all distinguished either. This is the kind of horror picture that entertains for ninety minutes and is instantly forgettable.
Episode: #404 (September 9, 2012)