Film Review: The Possession

2012 horror/thriller: Directed by Ole Bornedal; starring: Jeffean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, and Natasha Calis. [rated PG-13] Stars given: 3 /5

How does one fight evil? What about a box to trap it? If you believed such a thing, that you could trap a demon, would you?

Business-centric father Clyde takes his two daughters for the weekend. Youngest daughter, Emily , is an easy-going, animal-loving vegetarian, while her older sister, Hannah , is clearly battle-worn from the divorce. For the girls, the weekend is an escape from the stress of their ever-worrying mom and her germaphobic dentist boyfriend . The trio happily settle into dad’s new house in a still-developing cul-d-sac, but conversation over dinner proves that things are still a little tense between everyone. The next day, they come across a garage sale and stop to look for some dishes. Em finds an unusual box that almost seems to compel her to pick it up. She begs her father for the box and he happily complies; however, the next day, Em seems to be less that her usual bubbly self. But is it just the stress of the divorce finally getting to her? Or could this strange, antique box be the reason of Em’s shift in attitude?

The film bills itself as “bases on a true story” and claims that it happened “to one family over a course of 29 days”. Of course, this entire film is based on the urban legend of the Jewish Dibbuk Box , which was recently strengthened (no doubt in preparation for this film) by a Ebay posting , trying to sell an unusual box with an equally unusual story.

Tense moments are scattered throughout the film to keep the pacing (and the audience) going. This is achieved through whispered voices, eerie apparitions, and a string of stress-inducing scores which, while the sound track is well-built, gets almost obnoxious by the first half hour. In fact, within the first 27 minutes of the film, there is a count of 15 whisper-moments and 9 “odd happenings”, making the audience wonder what is left to fill up a film that lasts an hour and 32 minutes. While there is nothing wrong with a good build-up of suspense in a creepy film, there is a necessary element in all good horror films called “pacing”. While some masters of horror slowly strings their audience along until the moment is ripe, this film prefers to pack in a series of swift punches, with lulls in between to serve as what carries the plot.

For the characters in the film, everything that happens is quickly and easily blamed on the separation and divorce (which happened over a year ago) until the supernatural happens right in front of their eyes. For the audience, this is just frustrating, as we see everything that happens; to the audience, the characters are acting blind and stupid, and that frustration takes the audience out of the moment. Sadly, this type of film is seen all too often (most recently in “Dark Skies” ) and has gone from being considered a “normal reaction that indicates that these people are just like you and me” to “why can’t these people just admit something weird is going on so we can get on with this movie already”.

This film, in my opinion, earns 3 out of 5 stars. As far as a supernatural horror goes, I’ve seen better, but every scene promised in the trailers was included in the final cut (something that not every scary film does) and the score was fantastic. This is a moderately good film that is perfect for a rainy day or a lazy Saturday.

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