Directed by Ole Bornedal
When Clyde Brenek (Morgan) purchases an old ornate box for his youngest daughter, Em (Calis), from a yard sale, he has no idea of the horrors that will be unleashed on his family. Caught in a subdued battle of wills with his ex-wife, Stephanie (Sedgwick), Clyde struggles to help his daughters settle in at his new home and become comfortable with their new way of life.
Keeping the box near to her bed at night, Em gradually starts to display signs of erratic and violent behaviour – prompting her father to look into just what the box and its strange contents represent. His investigation leads him to the local Jewish community, where he discovers that the item is indeed a “Dibbuk Box” – a ritualistic prison for a demonic entity, which is now in the process of permanently setting up shop within the body of his child. In a race against time, Clyde and Stephanie seek the help of a young renegade Jew named Tzadok (Matisyahu) in order to banish the spirit and save their daughter from its grasp.
From start to finish, The Possession is exactly what you think it will be – a slickly produced but ultimately vacuous piece of mainstream horror fluff. Hitting all of the standard possession/ghost story beats along the way, it’s so insufferably on-rails that the blatantly cynical view of the audience it harbours actually borders on offensive. Think the presentation of the similarly stinky The Unborn, and you’re halfway there. Then again, even that one had some entertainment value in the form of the “Jumby” revelation.
A strong, dependable cast are almost completely wasted, with the ever-reliable Jeffrey Dean Morgan actually forced to slum it due to the weak script. Less obviously restricted by the material is young Natasha Calis as Em, whose ability to switch in an instant from childlike innocence and playfulness to a violent, threatening cretin and right back again almost solely injects life into the film’s initial build-up.
Unfortunately, from there it’s not so much downhill as it is a 5mph crawl along a perfectly flat horizontal road with only a sign saying “STOP” at the end. Promising opportunities come and go, with the potential for some interesting exploration of Jewish mythology, spiritualism and religious rites all but chucked aside in favour of the usual “people thrown against walls” exorcism shit we’ve seen a million times over.
The Possession is, quite frankly, crap. Well produced crap, but crap nonetheless. It’s lazy, cynical filmmaking through and through, and deserves none of your time. Serving up little in the way of scares except, perhaps, for one genuinely chilling scene involving an MRI scan, it’s a pathetically missed opportunity and instantly forgettable. So much so, in fact, that you’ll probably think you were possessed yourself when you walk out of the theatre unable to remember anything about the previous 90 minutes.
If you just want a basic, connect-the-dots ghost story with stereotypically Hollywood visuals, by all means step right in. If you demand anything of more substance, give The Possession a miss and go watch Sinister; then catch the MRI scene on YouTube when it eventually shows up.
1 out of 5