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.
Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Natasha Calis
Director: Ole Bornedal
Running Length: 92 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
One big problem with horror movies today is that so many of them are disappointments audience members can become a bit jaded when a decent one rolls around. While far from the cream of the crop, The Possession is a perfectly fine horror film that compensates for its short-on-scares delivery with nice performances and good atmosphere.
Sam Raimi’s production team, Ghost House, is behind the film and it’s easy to spot Raimi’s influences. Raimi directed The Evil Dead films and the deliriously excellent old-school-horror throwback Drag Me to Hell so the fact that The Possession is quite restrained is refreshing. Under the direction of Danish auteur Bornedal, a chilly Exorcist-like film emerges to frighten audiences as they return from the summer blockbuster bonanza.
Whenever you have a film that places children in the forefront, it’s imperative that you have young actors up to the task in these roles. I’ve seen one too many films (and not just horror) where the child actor is so bad that you pretty much pray they don’t make it to the end credits. Calis and Davenport are some of the better youngsters I’ve seen in a horror flick like this with Calis having the most physically demanding role as a pre-teen that becomes possessed by a demon from Jewish mythology.
Calis and Davenport are sisters that keep getting shuttled back and forth between their divorced parents and they carry all of the typical movie hang-ups with them. Davenport’s character is at the age where she’s too cool to be seen with her parents and too angry to admit she needs them. Calis is the more naïve of the two and it’s that naïveté that is preyed upon by the demon she unleashes from a box she finds at an estate sale.
As the estranged parents, Morgan and Sedgwick cut through the clunky bits of dialogue to make it believable to us they were once a couple and in love. Further, I totally bought that these two produced the two daughters. It’s a tightly cast family unit – and a smart move by the producers that recognized it had to be this way for the movie to have forward momentum. Morgan gets a nicely dramatic moment near the end and Sedgwick’s flowing curls are perfectly sculpted even when she’s being chased by a demon.
The secondary characters are just that…secondary. For a ninety minute movie there isn’t time to develop much outside of the family so actors like Grant Show and Jewish musician Matisyahu are a tad on the lightly drawn side. Nearly all of the actors present and accounted for are better known for their TV work so the performances are ultimately not Oscar-worthy but they aren’t embarrassingly awful either (I’m looking at you, The Apparition cast).
As this is a horror film with a demonic side, there are the requisite loud noises and devil voices that haunt the sound design. It’s one of the loudest movies I’ve seen all summer and incorporates the surround sound feature to its full effect. Whispered beckoning from the dybbuk (the evil entity feeding off of Calis) is crisp enough to send a lick of a shiver down your spine. A tradition of a Raimi movie is the contrasting of loud crescendos with absolute silence and numerous occasions of this tonal shift happen here.
Cinematographer Dan Laustsen frequently collaborates with his countryman Bornedal and their shared language comes through on screen with many nice shots that don’t telegraph a scare is around the bend. You know it’s there and they know you know it’s there…but still they try and trick you. I could have done without the plethora of shots looking down on houses and streets from above but when considering the viewpoint it’s suggesting, it does make sense.
Credit should be given for not having any cat jumping out from a dark room moments but the lack of scares overall makes the film lose some points in my book. I’m not saying that a film has to include these fake-out moments but I think there was a way to amp this up a bit more without going the traditional route. What it does have, however, are the standard horror stupid moves…i.e. people backing out of a room into total darkness…why do they do this? It makes no sense!
What we have here is a scare flick with some solid filmmakers involved that have produced a totally adequate film. It will probably whet the whistle of horror lovers who are gearing up for a Halloween season of more frights but may not have much of an impact on fraidy-cat converts. If you saw The Devil Inside back in January and were bummed out, try this one out and you may enjoy it.