Director David Jung Gives a Look Into The Possession of Michael King

Director David Jung Gives a Look Into The Possession of Michael KingShane Johnson is highly effective in the title role of The Possession of Michael King. Now the man behind the camera and the story speaks out about the movie. Director David Jung sat down with Dread Central to discuss The Possession of Michael King.


Shane Johnson is highly effective in the title role of The Possession of Michael King. Now the man behind the camera and the story speaks out about the movie. Director David Jung sat down with Dread Central to discuss The Possession of Michael King.

Jung began by discussing his inspiration for writing the story, which he co-penned with Tedi Sarafian. “The Shining played a very important role,” Jung said. “I wanted to do a movie from the POV of Jack Torrance, the character Jack Nicholson played.”

He explained, “I felt like no one had done that before, had the main character in the film be the one that’s slowly going mad, and documenting and talking about the process in an almost scientific way as it’s happening. I love movies about transformation, especially horror films. David Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of my all-time favorite films.”

Additionally, Jung talked about creating a demonic force with actor Shane Johnson using very little F/X. “Shane was hands down amazing,” Jung said. “We became good friends during the filming and have remained good friends since. He came to the table prepared every single day. He cared about the role. He wanted to spend time with me before we started shooting to really talk about the character, to get into his head. This was a very important movie for me to make, and Shane dug in to do the work to nail the character from the very beginning.”

Jung had nothing but praise for his star. “I put him through the ringer on this shoot. We didn’t have a lot of time (19 days to shoot the film!), and there were times on set I would just yell things for him to do and say and he was always ready willing and able, witty, could improvise on his feet, and would continue to bring something to Michael that was above and beyond what I ever envisioned. It was difficult to externalize the internal struggle Michael was going through. A lot of what’s happening to him is inside his head. We did as much as we possibly could to bring that out with sound design, but the rest is all Shane.”

Of course, horror is all about tension and how well a director can build it. Jung discussed how he built fantastic tension in The Possession of Michael King. “It’s always tough when you’re going into a film named ‘The Possession of’ something because right off the bat, in the title, you know, or at least have a pretty good idea of, what’s going to happen,” Jung said. “We ended up spending less time on the slow burn tension builders and more time on some jump scares. The evil ceremonies were especially fun, at least for me, because unlike most occult-based films where an evil ceremony takes place, and something genuinely scary happens, the outcomes of these ceremonies were somewhat comedic. At least they are at first.”

“It’s interesting overall, that when I’ve screened the film with an audience, there tends to be a lot of genuine laughter during the first half, the audience is having fun with Michael, as Michael pokes fun at the people that believe in the supernatural. Then as the film continues, and things get darker, a hush falls across the auditorium, and you can literally feel the nervous tension in the room as people sink deeper and deeper into their seats as they watch this man slowly deteriorate,” Jung continued. “That’s the tension I appreciate the most. Not the manufactured jump scares here and there [but] the slow burn of dread that comes over people as they start to realize there’s no way out for this guy, and yes, it’s going to end badly.”

Related Story: Shane Johnson Talks The Possession of Michael King

Although very little effects work was required to turn Shane Johnson into a demon, plenty of practical effects were used in the film. Jung talked about bringing his grotesque vision to life. “If you have a twisted idea, there’s a person out there that can make it happen; you just need to get out of their way and let them do their thing. We had a great practical F/X guy on the shoot, Jason Collins of Autonymous FX. He LOVES his job, and we had a great time working with him. Some of the set-ups to some of the gags didn’t make it into the film. For example, the pentagram Michael slices into his chest. There’s a scene at an occult shop where Michael is learning from the guy that works there about all these different types of black magic. One of the things he learns is that it’s a misconception that the pentagram is evil. It’s actually used for protection from evil spirits. When Michael carves it into his chest in the kitchen, it’s not the demon doing it, it’s actually Michael, trying to protect himself from the demon, which is why the demon forces him to toss the knife, then literally tosses him around the room.”

Jung continued, “The idea for this actually came from a really cool photo I stumbled across online. A picture of a guy with a sewn-up pentagram on his chest that was really gnarly, held together with staples and stuff. I thought that it would be cool, that instead of drawing the symbol on himself, he could carve it into his flesh. Michael sticking the needle in his finger came from a larger theological conversation, which used to exist in an earlier version of the script where the demon convinces Michael to start questioning the reality and existence of everyone and everything around him.”

Additionally, Jung talked about the ants that haunted The Possession of Michael King. “The CG ant stuff was fun,” he said. “I’d never really done anything like that before. Shane had to act like there was an ant on his desk, which wasn’t there. Then he had to pick it up, and watch as it crawled along his finger. Timing is everything for those shots. I wish we had more money. I would’ve had the walls of that house covered with ants by the end of the film!”

Jung concluded with a discussion on some of the unique imagery in the film and where they came from. “The scene with Michael and the TV is one of the first scenes I wrote in the script,” Jung said. “I actually shot a test version of that scene, which embodied a much larger conversation between Michael and the demon, which helped secure the financing for the film, and firmly cemented my attachment as a director. Maybe I can post that somewhere someday. It’s a pretty cool scene. The other thing that shooting that scene did was to show people how that scene was going to be shot. I can’t tell you how many people read that scene and had no idea how it was going to work on film, or how I was going to shoot it. We had five cameras working for that scene. The two cameras that Michael wears, his doc camera, the security cam in the room, and the live camera pointed at Michael that shows him on the TV screen. It was one of those scenes that when we shot it, I was the only person on-set that had any real idea of what we were trying to accomplish, and I think that half of the cast and crew thought I was mad!”

Read our positive The Possession of Michael King review here

Read our negative The Possession of Michael King review here

Filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson) doesn’t believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, Michael decides to make his next movie about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the center of the experiment. He allows demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him in the hopes that when they fail and he’ll have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go.

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