Review: THE POSSESSION (2012)

What’s in the box? WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!



Directed by: Ole Bornedal

Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, and Kyra Sedgwick

MPAA Rating: PG-13



 Demonic possession movies never seem to change all that much. Ever since THE EXORCIST, everyone has been trying to recreate the terror of seeing a pretty young girl turned into an instrument of evil. They all try different gimmicks and set-ups, such as THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE or THE LAST EXORCISM, but even they put off the vibe of “Been there, done that.” Now, we have THE POSSESSION, which seeks to bring new life to the genre by tackling Jewish demons and exorcism.

THE POSSESSION involves a recently divorced father who shares custody of his two daughters by having them over on the weekends. During one of these weekends, they stop at a garage sale where the youngest daughter, the precocious Em, convinces her father to buy her an old box that has captivated her. Unfortunately, this box is a Dybbuk box which houses an evil that possesses Em, and envelops the entire family into an unholy nightmare.

When it is being subtle, THE POSSESSION manages to deliver some legitimately creepy moments. The problem is that THE POSSESSION is very rarely subtle. It’s actually so overblown and heavy-handed for the most part that the scenes which are meant to be scary come across as unintentionally hilarious. There’s a bit involving teeth, in particular, that had this reviewer in hysterics. It’s a shame, too, because the family dynamic is well-done, and the Dybbuk box at the core of the story is well-established. It’s a film with a solid foundation, but the house built upon it is shaky and ridiculous.

The performances are surprisingly good for a film of this type, especially Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis. They create very sympathetic characters that are easy to identify with and feel for, even when the film is at it’s silliest. The script for the movie is okay. It’s sets up the characters and the situations pretty nicely before devolving into cliché and foolishness. The directing is competent. It looks like a horror film. That benefits some scenes, and greatly hurts others. The special effects are impressive. The moments involving eyeballs are especially effective and freaky. If there’s a big offender on the production side for this movie, it’s the music score. It loudly telegraphs every scare, every important moment, and every meaningful character interaction. Instead of accompanying the film, it overtakes it at almost every turn.

Should you see THE POSSESSION? If you are a really big fan of demonic possession movies, if you don’t mind clichés, and if you are fine with an inordinate amount of unintended humor, then this movie may be for you. However, anyone who is looking for a genuinely scary movie, or even just a decent one, would probably be wise to look elsewhere.

THE POSSESSION is now playing in theaters nationwide. It cannot be recommended by this critic.

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