The Possession, 2012.
Directed by Ole Borndeal.
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport and Matisyahu.
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.
The Exorcist has inspired quite a lot of movies over the years and Ole Bornedal’s The Possession is certainly one of the better ones. Produced by Evil Dead maestros Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, The Possession is “based on the true story” and centres around Clyde and his family who stumble upon the evil of the haunted dybbuk box that contains demon Abizu who possess his daughter Em. While clearly inspired by the William Friedkin classic, its yard sale set-up gives it a 80s era Twilight Zone feel but not played for laughs.
Bornedal praised The Exorcist for its slow and subtle build and its inspiration is evident in The Possession which moves at a methodical pace and savours every moment of every scene to leave its audience on the edge of their seats. From little things like a possible raccoon causing damage to their house to a fully possessed Em stalking her mother with a shard of glass, The Possession never lets up and it’s all the better for it. It’s so refreshing to see a modern horror movie that doesn’t rely on the now-tired method of ‘peek-a-boo’ scares (or found footage for that matter). On only one occasion does Borndal resort to the ‘quiet moment leading to a loud sound scare’ and even then it’s not as forced as others would have done it. Instead it relies on clever shot choices and interesting visuals to scare its audience to great effect.
There are many great moments in the movie and Bornedal’s visual style really helps the film, but the stand out element of the movie is the fantastic performance from Natasha Calis as the possessed Em. She plays young and cute to an absolute tee, but when it comes to being a possessed foul mouthed demon, she is frighteningly good. She captures the change over with such grace and perfection that you’re amazed you’re watching a girl of her age doing it so well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a fantastic job as her father Clyde, but this is Calis’ movie and she shines brightly in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing more of this girl over the next few years and I really hope she is given some real mainstream chances to show what she can do.
The film is far from perfect though. While I praised the movie for its controlled pace, it can be a bit tedious at times and some moments aren’t played to their full potential. Em’s scenes with smug dentist Brett could have been really effective and in some ways they are, but I just wish Bornedal had given these scenes more time with a more satisfying conclusion and spent less on Captain Exposition scenes with professors and Hasidic Rabbis. I do understand that the latter of the two is necessary, but the scene with the professor was extremely tenuous and forced.
With stunning visuals, effective scares and knock out performances from all of its cast, The Possession is a really, really good horror movie and one of the best I’ve seen in some time. If you like your horror movies slow, methodical and well put together and are willing to overlook some of its extraneous scenes, you will find a lot to enjoy with The Possession and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it.