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RUNNING TIME 103 minutes
– Audio Commentary with director Ole Bornedal
– Audio Commentary with writers Juliet Snowden and Stiles White
– “The Real History of the Dibbuk Box” Featurette
– Theatrical Trailer
Yet another possession movie.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu
After buying a mysterious box at a yard sale, Em (Natasha Calis) becomes possessed by an evil spirit. As things begin to spiral out of control, her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) must team up with his ex-wife (Kyra Sedgwick) to find a way to save their daughter.
Writing a review for The Possession is difficult. Subjectively, the film covers no new ground for the genre and seems content coasting by on a plot that we’ve seen dozens of times before. To make matters worse, if you were to watch the trailer before viewing the film you’d have the one scare that dares to be different ruined for you. Yet, there are still some surprisingly effective moments, and the cast gives the film everything they’ve got. Add in a bit of Raimi flair and you have a film that I enjoyed, despite its derivative nature.
The Possession opens with a sequence that feels right out of Raimi’s own Drag Me to Hell, but disappointingly changes tone the minute the scene ends. I wasn’t expecting that sort of craziness going in, but once I saw it I wanted more. This tonal imbalance sticks with the film for its entire running time, switching between quiet, brooding horror and zany deadite-esque possession sequences. These scenes are incredibly fun, especially the balls-to-the-wall battle with the demon at the end, but they feel like they belong in different film.
Once we settle in with the family and strange things start to occur, it’s obvious that the writers wanted to make not only a horror film, but a family drama as well. The family beats are actually more effective that some of the scares, which ends up helping the film through some of its missteps. This feels like a real family that fell apart for the wrong reasons, and by the end you find yourself rooting for them, not only to save their daughter, but their marriage as well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick have fantastic on-screen chemistry, and the two young girls were cast perfectly. Natasha Calis is particularly outstanding, especially as the demon begins to take control.
The best part of the film may be the cinematography, as the whole thing looks absolutely gorgeous. Some of the lighting is remarkably effective, and the film isn’t afraid to leave the audience in total blackness on multiple occasions. A sequence near the end where the only lighting comes from a flashing exit sign is very scary (if not a little cheesy), and it’s a shame it was given away by the trailers.
There are a couple of questionable sequences where the audience is left wondering if something might have been left on the cutting room floor. A set-up for an obvious scare involving a doggy door goes nowhere, and the old woman from the opening sequence feels unnecessary when she returns for a brief jump scare. Speaking of jump scares, this movie continues horror obsession with out-of-place loud noises. I don’t need a music cue to tell me something scary has just happened, the visuals should be allowed to speak for themselves.
I enjoyed The Possession for what it was, but it’s disappointing to think about how good it could have been. With such a fantastic cast and crew, this could have been the number one horror film of 2012. Instead, it ends up being a solid family drama bookended by horror sequences. Definitely worth a look for fans of the genre, but those of you who are tired of little kids getting possessed won’t find anything new here.
I love the slip cover for the DVD, but sadly it’s ruined by a permanent DVD + DIGITAL COPY + ULTRAVIOLET tag at the top. Why studios feel the need to make these permanent fixtures on DVD cases I’ll never know. The film itself looks great, with the scenes in total blackness looking just as inky as they did in the theatre.
The director’s commentary on the disc is interesting, if a bit boring. Ole Bornedal isn’t the most exciting man on the planet, and you feel as though he’s talking to himself throughout the commentary rather than the viewers. The writers commentary fairs much better and provides plenty of insight into the making of the film. Unfortunately, the plot holes and out of place scenes are never touched upon, which is the one thing I really wanted out of these features. The Dibbuk box featurette is fluff, and the trailer ruins most of the good stuff. Skip it if you can.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars