Director: Ole Bornedal
Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Natasha Calis, Grant Show, Quinn Lord, Rob LaBelle, John Cassini
RunTime: 1 hr 32 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG13 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Opening Day: 20 September 2012
Synopsis: Inspired by true events, THE POSSESSION is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde and Stephanie Brenek see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter, Em, becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dibbuk – a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.
When it comes to aesthetics, The Possession isn’t the most subtle. A perpetually gloomy sky hangs over a largely abandoned neighbourhood, casting unbidden suspicions of trouble, whether it’s of the murderer-lurking-around variety or the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night sort. Whichever it is, the only real trouble here stems from the pointless attempt at hammering the most conventional horror movie tropes into another by-the-numbers possession movie. Which leaves us where, exactly? The Possession does offer impressive CG visuals, but it’s ultimately too safe to shock and too predictable to really scare. Unless you’re a die-hard horror fan, don’t bother.
Now, we don’t mean to take any heat off the movie, but just so you know, producer and horror maestro Sam Raimi has admitted that the ‘based on a true story’ thing going on in the film is actually not based on a true story. That said, you shouldn’t be too worried about accidentally buying a haunted box like what our victim here did: Soon-to-be-divorced couple Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are struggling to provide enough care and attention to their children. After youngest daughter Em stumbles upon an antique wooden box at a yard sale, she becomes strangely obsessed with. Initially writing off Em’s increasingly erractic behaviour as divorce-related stress, the estranged couple must unite to save their daughter after discovering something more sinister inside her.
The evil in question here is a dybbuk, a spirit that finds a host to gradually devour. Or in this case, one that occasionally comes out to chit chat with the host. “Mummy, I’m talking to my friend,” says Em as she enthusiastically waves her Barbie doll at the air in front of her. Most of us have seen enough horror movies to grab the child and race out of the house the moment the youngest daughter claims that she’s speaking to an imaginary friend. But nobody in The Possession has ever seen a horror movie, so they just conveniently brush it off as stress. Even when her father finds her staring blankly into space as thousands of moths slowly engulf her, the movie tells us that the moths may have penetrated the enclosed room. In not going for making much sense, The Possession becomes easier to appreciate.
That appreciation is true for those who have been accustomed to the many cinematic machinations of horror flicks. The Possession has absolutely no ambition to stray from expectations, cavorting in the silliness of repeatedly throwing eerie stares and something-weird-wants-to-get-out-of-my-mouth scenarios at the audience as if these scenes are the most fashionable scare tactics today. Structurally, the movie is a puppet of the most basic horror storytelling technique, abruptly pushing its characters out of illogical calmness to outright panic before sending them to conduct a do-or-die exorcism that inevitably ends with someone’s death. This one two punch of staleness means that there’s nothing in here for you if you aren’t already a fan of horror movies.
So while The Possession isn’t a great film, it’s perfectly fine entertainment for anyone who’s looking for a decent follow-up to The Exorcist, the progenitor of the current crop of possession movies. I had an okay time with this movie, fully knowing that it’s just going to be another one of those horror shows that’s exhausting to make sense of and explain clearly. Depending on whether you’re already a fan of horror shows like I am, The Possession could either be decent or plain awful.
(An overly conventional movie that doesn’t bother to do anything new with the genre, The Possession is strictly for horror fans; others need not apply)
Review by Loh Yong Jian