The Possession, a supposedly “true story”, has a less than creative title, a cliched plot and employs some very old horror movie tricks. But for all its faults, The Possession IS freaking scary. I know this year hasn’t been a great year for horror films so far, but off the top of my head, I believe it is the scariest horror film I have seen this year, rather easily edging The Woman in Black.
It would be remiss of me to not mention upfront that The Possession is not even close to being “based on a true story.” The film is based on the tale of the “Dibbuk Box”, which is allegedly some kind of haunted Jewish wine box that allegedly brings bad luck to the owner. It became famous after one such box was sold on eBay and, as expected, a bunch of morons thought it would be great to buy it. You can read up on it here, a website dedicated to the story that looks so good it makes me suspicious about everything. In short, none of the stuff that happens in the “real” story happens in the movie.
Anyway, The Possession is about a recently divorced couple played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the American Javier Bardem) and Kyra Sedgwick and their two young daughters, one of whom comes across the dibbuk box at a garage sale. Naturally, strange and frightening stuff starts happening, and the parents have to work together to find a way to save their little girl.
Yes, it is yet another movie is about demonic possession of a young girl, but The Possession does have a lot going for it. For starters, unlike the majority of such films, it is genuinely creepy and has some really terrifying scenes, usually amped up by a blaring score that reminded me a little of Psycho. A lot of the scares are typical, classic tricks you might have experienced before, but that doesn’t make them any less effective. The Jewish slant adds a dash of freshness to the concept but also unintentional laughs during the final climax, which has elements of brilliance but didn’t break any new ground in the end.
Some of the “scary” scenes do fall a little flat, especially if you have seen the trailer. There are also some sequences that are too over-the-top for my liking, contradicting what Danish director Ole Bornedal (who did Nightwatch with Ewan McGregor and Josh Brolin, a surprisingly underrated horror flick) said about aiming for the subtlety of The Exorcist, the greatest horror movie of all time.
The Possession does start off with subtlety in mind, but unfortunately by the end it inevitably unravels and goes crazy — unnecessarily so, in my opinion. If you manage to get into the flow of the movie then you might be able to forgive some of the more outrageous scenes that were there merely for the sake of cheap thrills, but if you were sceptical from the outset you might find yourself laughing at how silly and nonsensical it is.
The performances of Morgan and Sedgwyck were strong, as were those of the two girls that played their kids, Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport. You really do get a sense of a familial bond between the four of them. One of the biggest and scariest shocks in the movie was discovering that Sedgwyck’s boyfriend in the movie is played by an initially unrecognizable Grant Show! Yes, I’m talking about Jake from Melrose Place!
The Possession is not what one would expect to be a good movie, and strictly speaking, it isn’t. But if it is just scares you are after, you may not find a more effective film this year.
3.5 stars out of 5!