STARRING Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Matisyahu DIRECTED BY Ole Bornedal SCREENPLAY E.L. Katz, Juliet Snowden, Kevin Mannis, Leslie Gornstein, Stephen Susco and Stiles White MPAA RATING Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME 92 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Lionsgate
"The Possession" a Decent, End of Summer Horror Flick
The Possession begins not so innocently as young Emily (Natasha Calis) picks up a mysterious weathered box at a garage sale, a seemingly innocent purchase if we didn't already know that the film is a horror film and that this child is destined to be the central character in a hellish story of demonic possession. Emily and her sister (Madison Davenport) are attempting to maintain their sanity against the backdrop of their parents' divorce. Mom (Kyra Sedgwick) is the more uptight of the two, while dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is played out as the ultimate dad even considering all the conflict that is going on.
The box, of course, proves to be not so innocent once we learn that is bears a carved Hebrew inscription informing the finder that the box holds a dybbuk, an evil spirit that latches onto whoever releases it and refuses to let go. Danish director Ole Bornedal does a good job of developing the characters in The Possession before all hell breaks loose, an approach that creates a bond that keeps us watching even as the film itself starts to falter. It also helps that the cast is uniformly strong, though the film is destined to be compared unfavorably to the vastly superior The Exorcist. Sedgwick and Morgan do make the most of their characters, avoiding histrionics in favor of subtle realism and a sense of naturalism in their relationship with one another. As the young Emily, Natasha Calis becomes sympathetic early and for the most part holds onto our hard-earned sympathy even as her character becomes increasingly chaotic.
Hasidic rapper Matisyahu makes a winning appearance here as Tzadok, the son of a rabbi who considers it his obligation to become involved in the situation in an effort to help the family. Matisyahu will be compared to Max Von Sydow given the nature of his character here, though that shouldn't detract from his winning performance and an indicator that the young rapper could very well make a name for himself on the big screen.
Bornedal favors subtlety over CGI scares or over the top horror, an approach that will likely win the film fans among devotees of classic horror. There's nothing particularly memorable about The Possession, though I suspect it will be fairly popular given the rather paltry selection available for horror fans right now. While the film emphasizes mood and atmosphere over actual chills and thrills, there's enough anxiety-inducing religious horror give The Possession a decent shot at box-office success on an otherwise weak opening box-office weekend.