Movie Review: The Possession
By Matthew Huntley
September 13, 2012
The generically titled The Possession starts out like any other child-taken-over-by-demon movie and then slowly gains traction, although not enough to put it in the winner’s bracket. When the movie is good, it’s really good and contains its fair share of hard-hitting, visceral scenes that have our complete attention. Unfortunately, these are preceded by too many equally dopey ones that have us rolling our eyes. It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t start caring about their story until halfway through the screenplay, just when the juicy things start happening. Had they put as much thought and effort into the first half as they do the second, they might have had an entirely effective film on their hands instead of just a mediocre one.
As with most movies of this type, the opening shot informs us “the following is based on a true story,” and it gets even more specific by stating the events affected the family for exactly “29 days.” Perhaps the filmmakers thought this extra detail would make us believe it more. But whether or not the story is true should make no difference to the audience; what matters is how well it’s told. After all, at the end of the day, this is a horror movie, not a documentary. And, as a horror movie, we’re looking to judge it based on qualities like mood, atmosphere and its ability to scare us. We also take into account the performances and whether the filmmakers and actors succeed at getting us to care about the characters. The Possession is competent in all of these departments; it’s just too slow on the uptake.
The film opens with an older woman staring at a mysterious wooden box on her mantle. How long the box has been there, we don’t know, but it seems she’s had it most of her life. Funny how it’s only starting to drive her mad now. It’s obvious there’s something sinister about this box, as we can hear grave, disturbing noises emanating from it. The woman is disturbed and stressed, pulling out her hair, crying and ready to smash the box with a mallet when all of a sudden…well I won’t give away the details, but a few days later, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his young daughters, Hannah (Jessica Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis), stop by the house and purchase the box at a yard sale. Em is particularly fixated on it, despite not being able to open it or translate the Hebrew text engraved on the outside.
Clyde, a college basketball coach, and his wife, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), have recently divorced and he’s just moved into a new house with creaky floors and big, open hallways. This makes for a perfect setting for ominous phenomena to occur, like giant moths flying out of the medicine cabinet; or a strange, invisible creature rummaging through the refrigerator; or Em’s body sharply and involuntarily moving about as if her dad was slapping her, even though he’s clearly not.