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Movie Review: The Possession

By Bob Garver 

Some text at the beginning of “The Possession” claims that the film is based on a true story. I don’t think it’s a good idea for this film to go for the “true story” angle. There’s a lot of spiritual, supernatural, and seemingly physically impossible action in the film. I won’t bother attacking the believability of the action, but I will point out a fallacy in the overall claim. Namely, if the events in movie were real, wouldn’t we have heard something? Wouldn’t we have heard something about people in this country being flung around rooms by demonic forces? Some will no doubt contend that the people involved in the story covered it up to protect their privacy, but then why allow this movie to be made? And why would they allow the movie to be the lame “Exorcist” knockoff that it is?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Clyde Brenek, divorced father of Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Emily (Natasha Calis). He gets the girls on weekends while their mother (Kyra Sedgwick) looks on disapprovingly. Clyde is no deadbeat dad, but it’s implied that he put his career as a basketball coach ahead of family, a decision he now regrets. Still, he’s apparently doing pretty well in his career because he just bought a nice new home in the suburbs. He takes the girls to a yard sale to get some household items, and Emily takes a liking to a box with mysterious Hebrew markings – a box that horribly injured its previous owner.

Things slowly start to change in Emily. She goes into trances, insults people, has violent outbursts, attracts giant moths, talks in a voice that isn’t hers, rolls her pupils back into her head, and nearly chokes on fingers inside her body. Clyde senses that there’s something seriously wrong, but everybody else just blames the divorce and more specifically they blame him. He suspects it has something do with the box, so he does some research, consults with a professor and some rabbis, and it seems he’s got a demon on his hands and it won’t be long before it completely takes over his daughter’s body. Emily’s only hope now is an exorcism.

For some reason, the demon goes pretty easy on Clyde’s family and severely punishes those outside of it. Sure it gives Emily a torso-ache, but there isn’t a lot of harm done to the family besides some cuts, lumps, and hurt feelings. Even the startling puncture wound foolishly given away in the trailers doesn’t seem to be long-lasting. It’s the minor characters who aren’t so lucky. The demon hurts them with involuntary contortions, involuntary eye surgery, and involuntary dentistry. Our demon is evidently very versatile in involuntary medical procedures. You’d think the demon would try to go after its toughest threat in Clyde, but no. If it’s just the family members in the scene and it’s not the climactic exorcism, the demon probably won’t do anything scarier than make Emily act creepy or cause you jump for no good reason.

“The Possession” doesn’t have a lot of interesting tricks up its sleeve. Demon possession movies are a dime a dozen these days and they all look bad when compared to the big one. The nicest thing I can say about the film is that it has particularly likeable characters played by decent actors. This isn’t the kind of horror movie where you just wait indifferently for bodies to pile up. I wanted the demon to leave the nice people alone and go bother those jerk bike messengers in “Premium Rush” in the next theater. “The Possession” is a forgettable horror movie opening two months too early for Halloween, probably because it was too scared to compete with better horror movies.

Two Stars out of Five.

“The Possession” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences. Its running time is 92 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.