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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Possession" (2012) (great, original title, by the way) is another
film in a VERY long line of demonic possession movies/"Exorcist"
ripoffs, and it has nothing special or noteworthy to distinguish it
from any of the others. It is a generic, largely predictable,
cliché-filled thriller with little to recommend it, and is not in any
way scary. Nothing the possessed little girl does in the movie is scary
in any way, nor is there any real indication (until the last 10
minutes) that she is possessed by anything; she just acts like a
spoiled brat, looks pale, occasionally talks in a weird voice, and
throws crockery on the floor. The only reason I saw it was because of
the Raimi/Tapert involvement, which must have largely consisted of
penning a few signatures and not much else.
To give the film credit, the first part of the movie is kind of creepy and spooky, before the possession. The scene where they look in the girl's room and see it filled with moths was very impressive. It also had good photography and music, and was atmospheric. The basic story is that this little girl finds a weird box at a yard sale, which is filled with bizarre trinkets. She mainly spends the first half acting weird and aloof. The film admittedly does start getting a little wonky during this part, when the father character (played by Javier Bardem's twin brother, apparently) retrieves the box from his daughter's classroom, in spite of the fact that (spoiler) her teacher was murdered there the day before and the place is a crime scene.
However, when the possession element finally kicks in halfway through, the film totally lost me and became increasingly painful by the minute. Once it is suggested that the box is a Jewish relic that might contain a demon, in the very next scene, the father character is trying to exorcise his daughter using the Torah, even though no indication has been given that he's Jewish or accepts any of this stuff as factual. The film then becomes increasingly silly as the girl eats raw meat out of the fridge, smashes glasses, and yells at mommy, then says cliché junk like "WHO AM I?" Terrifying.
There are a number of unresolved plot threads in the film; for instance, the box originally belongs to an old woman who gets beat up by the evil spirit, then is shown in bandages screaming "NO! NO!" at the little girl as she takes the box away. At no point do the characters ever try to contact this woman to see what the deal with the box is. There is also a thankless sister character who is part of a hip-hop dance troupe, never referenced again after the first act. If they're going to have those, why not have the dancers all become possessed as well, or have the possessed girl kill them during a dance competition or something? And what happens to the woman's boyfriend who loses his teeth? (Admittedly, the scene where his teeth dissolve was one of the few legitimately scary parts of the film, along with seeing the demon in the MRI). But then, do the doctors also see the demon in the MRI? And the girl's dead teacher is never referenced again. And there's also a scene where the kid stabs her dad with a fork, and he's just okay in the next scene. And what about the whole child-abuse subplot? The film is a series of missed opportunities.
Finally, in the last act, when the characters must exorcise the little girl, it goes off the cliff and becomes laughably bad. They bring the girl to a basement in a hospital filled with doctors and patients, then begin yelling and screaming while the place rocks around, thunder booms, and lights go off. Does anyone else in the hospital notice this? The scene with the Rabbi doing the exorcism ritual, rocking back and forth and screaming, was unbelievably silly-looking, even if it may be an accurate representation of a Jewish ritual. Then the possessed kid runs around like a character from "Silent Hill," the father becomes possessed, but the Rabbi manages to exorcise the demon, which looks like Gollum, and put it back in the box. As a reward for this, the father gives the rabbi his brand-new, $50000 BMW, since he "doesn't want to go anywhere" (how is he going to get food?), then (spoiler) there is a ridiculously cliché ending where the Rabbi gets creamed by a Mack Truck and the box flies out, waiting for somebody else to find it. Did you get all that? Also, this film is based on a true story. Isn't it obvious?
The parallels between this film and The Exorcist are obvious even from
the trailers, so I won't go too far into that. Just suffice it to say
that The Possession contains none of the impact or shock value that The
Exorcist has. In short, it's just not as good of a film.
However, in its own right, it's a pretty competent horror movie. The story of the central characters is kind of cliché. Husband and wife have divorced, they share custody of the children, there's a new boyfriend/girlfriend in the picture, etc. This type of set up is always convenient when dealing with a "messed up kid" film. That way whatever is wrong with the child can inevitably be blamed on the fact that the child is just not dealing well with the break up of his or her parents. And that's exactly what happens in The Possession; except there is actually something VERY wrong with the youngest daughter and it has absolutely nothing to do with her parents. Without giving away too much, the plot centers around an ancient wooden box the youngest daughter finds at a yard sale. Of course she wants it, and so she gets it. And there begins to occur some rather strange phenomena; most of them downright spooky, a couple kind of hokey.
All in all, I was pleased. This film has got good pacing, decent acting, and exceptional cinematography. There's not much I can find as a fault here. If I had to name my major complaint about this and similar movies it would be this: I'm not thrilled about the influx of PG-13 horror films. I've a suspicion this is due to a need to bring in a wider audience (younger viewers/teenagers), and make more money on ticket sales. Because of this the final product tends to be a little too watered down for my tastes. The Possession shows a lot of promise, but I can't help but wish the writers/director would have pushed the envelope a bit more; fleshed out the story. Then it would have been great. As it stands now, I'll just say it's a "good" little horror film. Nothing that will be talked about this time next year, but I consider my money well spent.
My rating: 6.5/10
Based on the allegedly haunted Dybbuk box, 'The Possession' is a fairly
interesting watch, that works in parts & Jeffrey Dean Morgan Delivers A
Super Performance! He's in Complete Form this time around!
'The Possession' Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl's father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.
'The Possession' works in parts. The second-hour is pretty good, but the First-Hour is slow & not very engaging. The Climax stands out, its spooky & nicely done. Juliet Snowden & Stiles White's Screenplay works in parts. Ole Bornedal's Direction is a plus-point. Cinematography & Editing are good.
Performance-Wise: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is up for top honors. He's in Complete Form this time around! Kyra Sedgwick is decent. Natasha Calis delivers aptly. Madison Davenport & Matisyahu support well.
On the whole, 'The Possession' is a fairly interesting watch.
The Possession (2012)
*** (out of 4)
Extremely well-made and well-acted horror film about a recently divorced father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who buys his youngest daughter (Natasha Calis) a seemingly innocent box at a yard sale but soon the girl's behavior starts to change. The title pretty much tells you what happens to the little girl and I'm sure many of you are out there wondering if we really needed another possession movie. The answer is yes and especially since this one here turned out so well. I think you have to give the filmmakers a lot of credit for tackling a familiar sub-genre and being able to make it work without resorting to cheap, loud noise scares that seem to be attached to all horror movies today. I thought there were a lot of reasons why this film worked but one is the fact that you care about the father and feel his pain for losing someone close to him. The personal drama is something that THE EXORCIST used so well and the filmmakers here borrow from that and make sure the viewer can care about what's going on. Another strong point are the performances with Jeffrey Dean Morgan doing a fantastic job in the role of the father. It's rare to see horror films with such strong performances but Kyra Sedgwick is also strong as the mother. Calis is terrific in her bit as the young girl who finds herself falling apart. The limited special effects are good for what they are but we also get an incredibly effective music score. I didn't care for some of the style given to the film including the fast cuts to a black screen but this was just a minor issue. Still, THE POSSESSION gives a shot of energy to a genre that has so far in 2012 delivered one bomb after another.
So this movie was not for everyone, I personally thought this movie was
An exorcism movie that does not involve the devil is refreshing to see, and the experience of the movie is played out quite well in the pacing and how events unfold. The fact it features the Jewish religion over Christianity is a very nice touch, one you rarely see in a movie of this style as most people hear exorcism and assume the Catholic church. While many may complain it is too slow, and other such things let me ask you this question.
What were you expecting from a movie that was purely plot driven?
Personally the acting was also great, I could empathize with the characters and understand them. The father was just worried about his daughter, who hid her signs of the problem well until things got bad. I mean when it really showed and she was hitting the kid at school, that looked like something that night happen in school over even something small like a favorite pencil or item. There was in my opinion no weak performances in the acting, coupled with a solid and strong story makes for quite a good movie.
Lastly the execution was some of the best I had seen this far, it flowed and was not jumpy like say the bourne movies. Nothing was out of place and the movie felt creepy and eerie throughout with all of the silence that you could almost hear in many parts of it. If your looking for a truly good movie that will have you walking away satisfied this is one of them.
It is a well written, acted, and executed movie that while it may seem slow moving is well worth the watch. Think of it what you will, but I recommend this movie as one of my top ten movies of 2012.
I was on holiday visiting my friend in Sacramento, California, and we decided to go to the movies. Our choice was between this movie and another called 'The Apparition'. We opted for this one as creepy kids always seem to make a horror movie much more appealing. Usually, I avoid possession films. I can't even force myself to consider 'the exorcist' a horror classic. I just think possession and exorcism films are always poorly done and are slightly altered versions of each other. However, seeing the trailer of this film beforehand made me want to see this movie and again, the little girl Emily 'Natasha Calis' drew me in. I thought this film had an interesting storyline which kept me gripped throughout and superb performances by the cast, especially Natasha Calis who portrays the little girl Emily who is possessed throughout the film. Without giving away any spoilers, I felt the ending was well done and made me leave the theatre thanking the screenplay writer for a non-stereotypical ending - well done! This film is definitely worth a watch. I may even buy it on DVD when it's released. It's not your average 'lets walk down the stairs backwards and puke over a priest' possession movie. It's well acted, well written and well worth a see. It has some jumpy moments for those who aren't desensitised to the ways of a horror movie but mainly it's gripping and you want to find out what's in that box.. GO SEE IT! I hope to see the young cast in some more films in the future! Loved it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a huge fan of the exorcism movie genre and this movie just simply
did not meet my expectations.
Now, before I go on to say that this movie was all around bad I will first start off my saying it was not. The opening sequence was a great way to set the tone of what is to be a good film. The possessed child, Emily delivered her character very well and will always remain memorable, sort of like that of Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan). whilst watching this film I couldn't help but be scared, the film delivers at being suspenseful and scary but not horrific. Special effects makeup, short demonic dialogue, the death of only 1 character and extreme harm to 2 characters does not in my opinion define horror. Lacking originality during the ending of the film I was reminded of "The Devil Inside" with the exorcism performed in the desolate hospital and the demon flipping out causing harm to her loved ones and the person performing the exorcism along with the demonic transitioning from the Daughter to the Father. In comparison "The Devil Inside", was from Mother to Daughter.
Originality in this film came from the Jewish exorcist. Not done before, every one of this films predecessors turn to Christian exorcist to perform exorcisms, so that was a plus. As well as the families struggles which remains relate-able to all viewers in some shape, way or form.
I won't spend to much time with this any longer but I did like the film as an overall production just expected a little more based on the teasers and trailers especially since the first Exorcist movie (Linda Blair) still remains a perfect 10 therefore, the best in its genre. I only wish that production companies would stop being so hasty to release films that just does not live up to its expected genre.
Let me start of by saying that The Possession is far from a horrible
film. It's well put together, reasonably well acted, etc., but there's
nothing to really recommend rushing out to see it.
Any true horror fan will tell you that 2012 has been slim pickings for theatrical horror films. The ones we've gotten have ranged from decent (The Woman in Black) to extremely divisive (The Cabin in the Woods). Sadly, The Possession is not going to be our saving grace this year.
I will give The Possession props for attempting to give its characters some sort of backstory and dramatic through line, especially since that's something horror filmmakers have been forgetting to put in for years. It seems they forget that it helps if we get to know the people who are about to be terrorized if they expect us to feel any sympathy for them. The family unit is quite likable thanks to some game performances, but something about it feels manufactured and unrealistic as if the writers are trying too hard.
Once the real action of the film starts and little Emily starts acting strange, the film pulls a lot of punches and never does anything interesting or original with the material. It's Exorcist-lite. It would be as if the Disney Channel tried turning The Exorcist into a TV movie for their network. It takes a lot of the dread and danger out of the last act of the film.
Also, forget about scares. No one in my audience even jumped at the film's many attempts at "boo" scares. There's a good effort to build up the dread for the first 30/45 minutes of the film, but it plateaus there and never pays off.
Like I said, The Possession is not a terrible film (nowhere near as abysmal as this year's The Devil Inside), just a dull one with nothing new to offer and no surprises to make it worth seeing. I really don't even think it's rental material. Skip it!
'THE POSSESSION': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
A Jewish exorcism film for a change! This one revolves around Jewish folklore of the Dybbuk Box (which began in the 1920s), a box used to contain an evil Jewish demon. A father and his two daughters buy the box at a garage sale and one of the young girls becomes possessed by the demon inside it. The film was produced by Sam Raimi (and released through his horror studio 'Ghost House Pictures') and directed by Ole Bornedal. It was written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (who also co-wrote the Sam Raimi produced horror film 'BOOGEYMAN' and the Nicolas Cage thriller 'KNOWING') and stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. The movie plays out like a pretty routine possession movie but it does have some pretty nice scares in it and the dybbuk storyline is interesting.
The film is based on an article by LA Times reporter Leslie Gornstein, called 'Jinx in A Box', about the history of the Dybbuk Box which was brought to America by a Holocaust survivor and passed around to various people who all reported horrific experiences from it. In the film a young girl named Em (Natasha Calis) finds the box at a garage sale and asks her dad, Clyde (Morgan), to buy it for her. Clyde was recently divorced from his wife, Stephanie (Sedgwick), and has his two daughters, Em and Hannah (Madison Davenport), for the weekend. Em takes the box home and opens it and soon strange occurrences begin happening. This causes further conflict between Clyde and Stephanie as Clyde is blamed for his daughter's strange behavior. Clyde soon discovers Em's possessed and learns the history of the box. He then travels to a local Hasidic community for help and enlists the assistance of a young jew named Tzadok (Matisyahu), who is able to perform exorcisms.
Bornedal also directed (as well as wrote) the Danish thriller 'NIGHTWATCH' and it's 1997 American remake of the same name (although Steven Soderbergh rewrote that screenplay) starring Ewan McGregor. He also directed and co-wrote the 2007 Danish horror film 'THE SUBSTITUTE' (also released by Ghost House Pictures, in America). I'm not familiar with his work but I really liked his directing on this film. It has that classic campy horror feel to it, with touches that had to be influenced by Sam Raimi (as it often feels like one of his films). The movie is often funny, in seemingly unintentional ways, but it's never too over the top. The comedy never takes you out of the creepy mood of the film and although the script is routine the film is always intriguing, thanks to the excellent filmmaking. Morgan is good in the lead and Natasha Calis is also impressive in the pivotal creepy role. To many it might just seem like a bad horror film but if you're a fan of the genre you'll probably get a big kick out of it's style and the enormous fun it has with the material.
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I'm a little bit wary when a horror film touts itself as based on a
true story, because one can only take that with a pinch of salt, given
that it's a film after all, and there's a need to dress it up for the
silver screen and for dramatic purposes. Moreover, having to state the
events took place in less than a month, seemed a little bit far
fetched, given how the screenplay played things out, which made it look
like months instead. Still, for the curious, you may want to look up an
article called Jinx in a Box written by Leslie Gornstein, which the
events in this film is purportedly based on.
So is it any good, given that the trailer essentially told the entire story from beginning to end? It got better as it moved along, and really tested your patience in the first half of the film since it really took a long time before a turn of events leading to the first boo. It introduced the characters of a dysfunctional family, where Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has already divorced from wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), with the former getting only the weekends to spend time with daughters Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis). The arrangements seem pretty well oiled, with Clyde having moved to another house of his own conveniently located in a new neighbourhood. As part of moving in, they pick up extra dishes at someone's backyard jumble sale, and Em gets attracted to a mysterious box, which gets bought and brought home.
Warning lights are probably flashing now, since stories of old have already warned never to pick up strange looking objects from anywhere and bringing them home. Opening Pandora's Box is also something nobody should do, and when done, welcomes a whole lot of trouble. Em becomes possessed and Natasha Calis almost got a chance to be the next Linda Blair in The Exorcist, except that The Possession minus all the kinky moves that would make parents frown and grown ups blush. Make up also helped to make her look her zombie best, coupled with fans borrowed from a Bollywood studio to let her hair fly around when the air around is still. And for those who object her bout of violent behaviour, especially when becoming possessive and protective of the mysterious box, even stranger things happen, and her unusual behaviour soon triggers Clyde to do some sleuthing of his own.
Credit must be given when credit is due, so Danish director Ole Bornedal did what he could in avoiding the usual clichés of slamming doors and jump scares. Instead, the focus was on building atmospherics through the use of creepy crawlies, and he succeeded to an extent in doing that. It took a while to build up a story, which could have done a lot more with its context of dismissing the change of the child's behaviour because of the psychological pressures in dealing with her parents' divorce, but this never really quite took off.
Instead, the last half hour floored the pedal to the metal, moving at breakneck speed and allowed a battle of good and evil, and dealing with a parent's undying love for his child, complete with self-sacrificing gesture to try and lure the evil that is inside. While there are a whole host of exorcist type films of late, to varying degrees of success and presentation, this one probably was one of the first that I've seen that was a Jewish exorcism, not involving a priest but a rabbi (Matisyahu) instead, with certain rites performed I'm sure didn't had much of an authentic ring to it (I may be wrong). And to make things a little laughable, there was a scene where Clyde thought he could do it alone through the learning of the rites on Vimeo (wonder how much they had to pay to displace YouTube), before seeking professional help.
But the unforgivable element in the film, is the editing. For all the good work that was done in the film, with the actors trying their best to flesh out a relatively flimsy storyline, everything got let down by the poor, poor editing. This probably came from having 2 editors in Eric Beason and Anders Villadsen handle the film, so one can only speculate on the clash of ideas. Ultimately it really reflected their weak editing skills and the limited scope of their abilities, making almost every transition here a fade to black, probably the only technique they can both agree on. This irritates since it's so frequently used, especially at the beginning of the film, and made it all worst when it was used so carelessly in the gripping finale, totally spoiling the mood and threw a spanner in the works. It's really choppy work, got in the way and drew attention to itself, so it was bewildering why the filmmakers had let this pass, rather than to fire them both and get someone else instead.
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