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I love my dad. He’s been there for me through thick and thin, and he’s always encouraged my writing career. He’s the best. That said, his taste in movies is awful. Many of the films he told me that he used to watch in the Army and loved are absolutely terrible. Not only that, but he’s an M. Night Shyamalan apologist, constantly telling me how good he is, even though he hasn’t made a decent film since Unbreakable. (My dad even liked The Happening! Can you believe it?). So when he told me that The Possession was a good movie when he saw it in theaters, I rolled my eyes. But he assured me it was actually pretty good. Well, having seen it now, I can admit that it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. Mostly because I thought it would be absolute crap.
I won’t lie. The Possession is generic garbage for about 80 minutes of its 92 minute runtime. But those last 12 minutes, well, they’re not fantastic, but they definitely make up for an otherwise subpar exorcism film. And the main reason for this is because they’re actually creepy and unique. Most exorcism films are based solely in Catholicism, so we’re used to seeing the same Catholic priest archetype like the one in The Exorcist. But The Possession is based off of a Jewish demon, and that little factor alone changes everything. With the rabbi (played by hip-hop/reggae musician, Matisyahu) bobbing as he says religious scripture, it presents a plot I haven’t seen before in these kinds of movies. The act of expelling a demon is similarly different here. I like it.
Having said that, there’s very little to like about the rest of the movie. The plot focuses on a box that contains a Dibbuk--an evil spirit seeking a body. Once the box is open by a young girl named Emily (Natasha Calis), her parents, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick, must find a way to help her rid of the spirit as it takes over her body. But this story is told in the most predictable way imaginable, especially if you’ve seen a number of crummy horror movies over the past few years.
The parents are of course divorced, and they fight over the very kids that they need to protect. The little girl in question makes scary faces and her eyes roll to the back of her head. And the parents eventually come together to stop the demon inside of their daughter. It’s everything you’ve seen before and nothing more. It’s pure PG-13 crap. Not even 13-year-old girls would scream at this. Most of it isn’t scary at all.
In fact, the legend of the Dibbuk box is much creepier than the movie itself. Maybe it’s because I’ve never heard of it before, which is why it’s such a shame that more care wasn’t put into that part of the story. All of the Jewish history behind the box comes too late, and it’s not emphasized enough until the last few minutes. It’s one of those films that could have been better with a more polished script. And while I’m not saying that the film should have been R-rated (The Ring and Insidious were PG-13), I definitely think the images in this film could have been much more horrific and grounded in darkness. In fact, until the end, most of the film is bathed in light. Why the hell would they do that? I mean, sometimes, that can work if the scenes are unpredictable. But as I said earlier, everything is so cookie-cutter in this film that it just doesn’t work out.
As a whole, The Possession is mostly a pretty bad movie, but the last few minutes are pretty great. I don’t recommend seeing it. But if you’re in a room and people are watching it, then there are much worse modern-day horror movies that you could be stuck watching. Trust me, there’s much worse out there.
There really aren’t too many special features here, but the ones that are here are pretty good. There are two commentaries. Normally, with a mediocre movie like this, I’d bemoan how boring these commentaries are. Here, both of them are actually pretty enjoyable, including the screenwriter one. In the director’s commentary, Nightwatch director, Ole Bornedal whisper talks his way through the the whole thing, and it’s actually pretty interesting. He discusses the film, the legend of the Dibbuk, and the actors, but he doesn’t just talk them up like most directors would. He actually discusses why they were important for the role and how they worked in the scenes. The best part is probably when he says, “Don’t believe in ghosts,” at the end of the movie. That’s just perfect. He buys into the film, but not into the legend. I love that.
The other commentary is by the writers, who are a married couple, and they discuss the story all the way through, giving insightful comments. It’s a shame that it’s such a lame script, but you can definitely tell that they’re passionate about the legend of the Dibbuk. You really buy into it. And finally, there’s “The Real History of the Dibbuk Box” featurette. This is definitely the best special feature on the disc. Here, we learn about how this movie is “based on a true story,” in the first place. And while it’s not as outlandish as the story in this film, it’s actually quite scary. There’s even a warning before the feature that says they’re going to reveal the real box that the story is based on. It creates a sort of Blair Witch Project quality to it. I actually got some chills watching it. The trailer is the last special feature. Overall, the features on this disc are sparse but full of quality. You’ll like them if you like the film.
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