The Possession – Movie Review

After seeing this film, you may never buy at a garage sale, again.

Be careful what you wish for, that treasure you picked up for a song may contain more than decades old house dust. In Ole Bornedal’s latest nail-biter, the box in question contains a dibbuk, a lost soul looking for a body to inhabit. The lost soul is in limbo because of the sins it committed during its physical life on earth. Now it must invade the very flesh of a vulnerable human, preferably a child, in order to continue its search into madness for all time.

Open the box and you will wish you had not.

“The Exorcist” is back, in new and, yes, improved form. Time has seen improvements in special effects and this film has them. The possessing spirit is somewhat of a cross between Golum and the Alien. It crawls around like a reptile and, like the alien, creeps around inside your body like a giant infesting worm, showing up, scowling, as a bloody maggot on your cat scan. Obama Care never imagined this.

“Possession” starts in champion form with a good dose of guilt. Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Kyra Sedgwick) have had enough of each other and are getting a divorce. Clyde is a successful and ambitious basketball coach. His charisma is limited to the court, and largely denied to his family. Stephanie is beautiful and spoiled, a resentful mom trapped in her suburban vacuum while hubby enjoys the glory of gladiator sport.

This is good for the screenplay because it stresses us out just to watch the two behave like selfish children. We already feel sorry for the kids, who are acting more like grownups, than are the grownups. Pity the poor child who reaches out for succor to the cute old box with the ancient inscription. “Open this box and eat the moths as directed. Results guaranteed.”

What we get to see, that the parents do not, is the moth swallowing trick that daughter Em (Natasha Calis) does as she ferociously clutches the ancient vessel. As the owner finds out in the beginning of the film, the box resists being lost or destroyed. A few body slams later, she is in traction and the box is on the front lawn along with the flatware and linens.

Time to bring in the young priest for the demon casting out. Tzadok (Matisyahu, the “Hasidic Reggae Superstar”), is there when Clyde goes looking in Brooklyn. A laugh floats out from the audience when the camera shifts to a sign for Brooklyn and the streets are lined with black-suited men with beards in dark hats. Heck, even the women and children have hat dark hats and beards. If you need a Jewish dibbuk cast out, this is the place to go. Or, a good nosh, for that matter.

Luckily for all concerned, Tzadok’s father is a Rabbi with a PhD in slimy dibbuks. Clyde tells the room full of Rabbis that someone found the box and opened it. When the men of the cloth learn it was a child, they walk. Clyde, you are on one heap of trouble. Nobody here is going to tangle with a dibbuk that has found a child’s body to inhabit. Nobody, but nobody. Nobody, that is, except Tzadok and Clyde.

The film started with a righteous R rating from the MPAA. However, some last minute surgery by the production team was able to plea bargain that down to a PG-13. Too bad, it would have been a better film with the R rating. Maybe there will be such a version when it comes out in DVD.

In spite of the sanitization there are still some very good moth infestations (creepy reference to Mark Pellington, Richard Gere and Laura Linney’s “Mothman Prophesies”) a fork stabbing for breakfast and, of course, raw meat for dinner for the hungry Em. After all, she is eating for two.

Not a huge part for Kyra Sedgwick, who appears to be resting on her “Closer” laurels for a bit. Great suspenseful sound track, fine off-kilter and suitably dark cinematography. The film does not use a huge number of special effects. However, when it uses them they are shown to the best advantage. The setting of the story in the plainest of Plain Jane suburbs underscores the claustrophobic moth infestations and the fingers emerging from Em’s throat. Makes you look at dental flossing in an entirely different light.

Produced by horror master Sam Raimi along with Rob Tapert and J.R. Young, “The Possession” is hardly a new story. In spite of that, it is a commendable step upward in the grisly world of supernatural evil.

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Directed by: Ole Bornedal
Written by: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Starring: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick
Release Date: August 31, 2012
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences
Run Time: 92 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color