Friday, March 29, 2013

Movie Review: The Possession (2012)

Call me a horror snob, but I was scoffing at this movie before I even saw it. I thought it looked it like almost every other mainstream horror movie that is coming out these days that does nothing but rely on cheap scares and stupid images with no meaning to make us think that it's cooler than it is. And well... okay, the movie does do that for the most part, you gotta admit, but I always try to overlook some of that stuff to see if a new movie manages to give us something new. The Possession, while being mostly formulaic and trite, did actually surprise or intrigue me at points and I'd like to give it some props.

The movie starts with an older lady getting the shit beaten out of her when she is thrown around her living room because she tried to destroy this wooden box on her shelf. Cut to our good old American family (well, almost) who purchases the box at a yard sale for young daughter Emily. Of course, Emily starts exhibiting strange behavior and becomes increasingly possessive of (and possessed by) this strange object. Turns out that it is a dybbuk box, something from Jewish folklore that is said to house the spirit of a restless demon who is able to possess the living. 

The Possession ventures us into familiar and at the same time unknown territory for a horror movie. No way is demonic possession anything new to the genre but it did introduce to us the existence of Jewish demons and a Jewish exorcism. So that's definitely something new, and something that I had never heard of or thought of before - does the Jewish faith have demons and a rite of exorcism like the Catholic faith? I guess so. It's a bit frustrating that the movie takes a good 50 or so minutes to finally tell us just what this box is, even after all the crazy stuff that has happened to or around Emily. Of course, Emily's father Clyde just happens to know a professor who might have some answers so he finally goes to see him. And even when Clyde visits the guy in his classroom, he has something titled "Self-Possession Through Transformation" on his overhead projector, which annoyed me but I'm probably the only one.

It's actually not a bad movie, but a lot of its effect was almost completely ruined by the advertisement and the movie's overall lack of imagination. It is seriously times like these when I really and truly just hate trailers. The best scare of the movie is when the fingers appear at the back of Emily's throat - but of course, they played that scare to death in trailers and TV spots so the effect was gone when I (and probably everybody else) watched it. The rest of the "scares" are cheap and cliched, the same kind of stuff that is being repeated over and over again in mainstream movies lately, which in turn cheapens the tone and any sense of fear or suspense that you might have for the family. There were actually a few things that I somewhat enjoyed; a lot of it being similar to body horror type stuff that always freaks me out - the way Emily's eye goes all wonky and you see something moving around underneath her face; seeing the demon inside her when she's in the MRI machine; and the lady at the beginning getting the shit beaten out of her. Again, it's nothing new or shocking, but sometimes the right image at the right time in the movie can still work. It doesn't happen very often in The Possession, though.

The Jewish exorcism scene at the climax is pretty lackluster, with Emily just doing a bunch of weird stuff and getting chased around a hospital while there is the obligatory and literal light show happening all around. They try to make it all scary when the demon finally appears in full form by doing the strobe effect, but it was still disappointing. He was just this gooey, Gollum-like thing crawling across the floor - after crawling out of Clyde's mouth. They could have made that part so much more gross and disturbing if it weren't for that danged PG-13 rating they were probably striving to keep. The ending is sadly just another obligatory shock value moment that wants to open doors for a sequel.

On to some of the movie's good parts. I found myself really enjoying the acting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the dad Clyde and the two girls who played his daughters, Emily and Hannah. Kyra Sedgewick as the mother Stephanie is the same old horror movie mother I've seen before with no real personality. Sorry, Kyra, but it's true. Anyway, the family is going through the obligatory (seems to be the word of the day) strife with the parents being divorced, which of course just makes the whole demonic possession thing even worse. I really thought that Clyde and his daughters had some nice family moments together, and most importantly, Clyde's love and connection to his children felt real. Morgan is becoming a particular favorite of mine, even though it took me about 20 minutes to realize that he was not Robert Downey, Jr. Seriously. Those two have to be related in some way, I'm sure of it.

I now have to say that I think my favorite part of the whole movie was when Clyde brought the dybbuk box to the synagogue in New York, because as soon as he showed it to all the Jewish dudes, most of them hightailed it out of the room. That got a pretty big laugh out of me.

Though a pretty good chunk of The Possession is all trite, uninspiring, forgettable crap, I'm going to give it at least a few plus points for introducing a new concept to the same old exorcism stories. There are good actors to help give us some nicely drawn characters, and portray a believable family unit. It wasn't as bad a movie as I was expecting; it was just mostly disappointing - especially coming from beloved producer Sam Raimi.


  1. Top notch review, Michele. I thougt the same when I saw the trailers and the posters: another clichéd possession/exorcism flick.
    Yet, it was way more scarier and way more thrilling than I expected, plus: really great cast!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.