Based on a true story, THE POSSESSION is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil.Â
Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Kyra Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a Dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.
The Possession is the story of Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen's The Comedian), a high school basketball coach who is desperately trying to keep a place in the lives of his two daughters, Hannah (Madison Davenport from "Shameless") and Emily (Natasha Calis from "The Firm"). Clyde shares custody of the girls with his estranged wife, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgewick from "The Closer"), and her new boyfriend, Brett (Grant Show, better known as Jake from the original "Melrose Place"), and while the girls are with him one weekend they hit up a yard sale. The younger girl, Em, finds a curious wooden box covered with strange carvings and Clyde buys it for her. By shaking the box, Clyde and Em can tell that something is inside, yet the box seems to have no lid, door or seams. Em becomes obsessed with the puzzle and, late one night, accidentally figures out how to get the box open. Once the box is open, strange things start happening to the family, and Em becomes more and more moody. Em's behavior drives a wedge between Clyde and Stephanie, and when Stephanie forbids Clyde to see his daughter, Clyde investigates the box and learns its purpose as a container for an evil spirit. Knowing that Em has been exposed to the open box, it is up to Clyde to save his daughter from whatever is slowly taking over her body and mind.
The Possession is rather unfortunately named. Because of the generic sounding title, it will probably get lumped in with all of the other rip-offs of The Exorcist, but it really is much more than that. Like most of the other exorcism movies, The Possession is "based on true events." The script for the film, written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (the pair that also wrote Boogeyman and Knowing), was inspired by an eBay listing for a supposedly cursed box called a Dybbuk Box. After a little research into the listing and the box, Snowden and White came up with the story that became The Possession. Producer Sam Raimi (the mastermind behind The Evil Dead series) chose relatively unknown Danish director Ole Bornedal (Deliver Us from Evil) to bring the frightening screenplay to life. While there certainly is a possession involved, The Possession owes more of a debt to Raimi's own Drag Me to Hell than it does to The Exorcist. The Possession concentrates on more of the terrifying aspects of the family's struggle than the actual saving of Em, and that makes the film much more enjoyable than just another exorcism movie.
The Possession is not without its flaws. The two young girls, Hannah and Em, are close enough in age and appearance to confuse the viewer as to which is which at times. Between her character's cranky disposition and her overused open-mouth-no-teeth facial expressions, Kyra Sedgewick's Stephanie is just not likable and, therefore, elicits no sympathy from the audience. And orthodox Jewish rapper Matisyahu is distractingly wooden as a Rabbi that agrees to help Clyde rid his daughter of the spirit. Despite these shortcomings, The Possession still succeeds at what it sets out to do; it simultaneously entertains and frightens, and audiences really can't ask for anything more.
One of the most chilling aspects of The Possession is the soundtrack. Sound designer Jussi Tegelman (who has worked on several of Sam Raimi's movies, including Drag Me to Hell and the Spiderman films) has lots of experience with horror movies, and he knows how to use the audio to help make the audience's skin crawl. Aside from the typical eerie double-tracked vocals that have become a staple of possession/exorcism movies, Tegelman uses human voices in other ways that add to the creepy factor. Throughout the entire film, silence is broken by subtle whispering, chanting, and breathing that makes the viewer subconsciously aware that characters are not alone. Tegelman's sound layering creates the aural equivalent to showing them the bomb, heightening the tension in The Possession without distracting from Ole Bornedal's visuals.
Aside from his ventures into the Spiderman movies, Sam Raimi has a pretty good track record with horror. The Possession serves to scare on two different levels. Of course, there are plenty of quick and loud shocks to make the viewer jump out of their seat. But, even further down the terror channel, The Possession reeks of the unsettling creepiness that embodies the best supernatural horror movies; there are walls that crawl, shadows that move and sounds that may-or-may-not actually be there, and it all adds to the tension that Ole Bornedal carefully crafts to scare the hell out of his audience. And, for the most part, it works. The Possession is a difficult movie to sit comfortably through and, for horror fans, that's a good thing.
August 31, 2012