Well, I do love me a good demonic possession/haunted house flick, and this little offering from Sam Raimis Ghosthouse Pictures qualifies nicely in both categories. The supposedly ‘based on a true’ story follows Clyde, a high school PE teacher, played with impressive depth by the ever-awesome Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), as he and his family, purely by chance, fall into the chilling grip of a Jewish demon/ghost/witch thing.This evil scrunt is normally caged in a special wooden box…a special wooden box that unwisely wound up in a garage sale after it left the previous owner in traction…and insane. It’s a pretty familiar story that we’ve seen numerous times, with varying degrees of success, going back to The Exorcist in 1973. As with past flicks, it’s a child that falls into the beasts spectral cross-hairs. Clydes youngest daughter Emily, played with finesse and range by a young actress named Natasha Calis, is the unfortunate ‘host-to-be’. This kid is quite remarkable in how she slowly goes from a happy-go-lucky ‘daddies girl’ to a vicious, hissing force-to-be-reckoned-with. At no time did I find her performance to feel forced or weak. Actually, I could apply THAT to almost all the performances on display. Coming back to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, I have to give The Man some mad props for his portrayal of an average, somewhat down-on-his-luck dude, just trying to put his life back together after a divorce, who abruptly finds himself in the midst of something beyond his understanding, something that has maliciously targeted those most dear to him. Much like Sinister (2012), the interactions between the family members felt genuine and natural, which really went a long way to sell the fear, anger, confusion and panicked desperation that Morgan manifests as he searches for help and understanding. There is a really good scene in which he tracks down a shadowy enclave of Orthodox Jews to seek help, and subsequently breaks down when he is told by the ‘elder’ to “Leave it to God.” I believed that the man was deeply afraid for the life (and soul) of his little girl, and sympathy for a character like that goes the distance in this kind of flick. Another area where I felt that this movie excelled was in its atmosphere and scares. There was some very effective, creepy-as-fuck visuals on display. What was impressive was the simplistic nature of some of the more chill-inducing moments. Things as basic as a wooden box creaking open on its own in the shadows…or the static-choked ‘horror face’ on an MRI computer display…or the flutter of hundreds of moths wings in the dark. Again, we’ve seen these types of ‘effects’ in plenty of these types of movies but here they managed to give them their own distinct flavor. In a similar vein, I liked the ‘shake-up’ of making the evil entity Jewish in nature, especially considering that the protagonists are gentile, with no knowledge of the Judaic belief system. We always get stuck with Christian or Catholic baddies in the ‘traditional’ possession flicks, so a little change-up is nice. If I had to pick a weak link, I’d probably go with the predictable resolution of the marital/divorce issues. I understand that after the events that this family had to endure, I can see the potential for the ole flame to reignite but for whatever reason…I had ‘issue’ with it. It could very well be that Morgan and Mrs Kevin Bacon Kyra Sedgwick (the ex-wife Stephanie) pulled off such a convincing portrayal of a divorced couple who were trying to move on with their individual lives, while maintaining an air of ‘familiar’ civility, for the sake of their two daughters, that I would have been cool with them simply continuing on with a ‘happy’ divorce. But…whatever. Extreme circumstances can mend many a marital rift, I suppose Another SLIGHT complaint was the excess of seizure-inducing strobe lighting during a key exorcism scene. It did lend well to the whole ‘less is more’ motif used for the majority of the scary images but it felt cliched. The filmmakers could’ve tried a little harder to come up with something a bit fresher. There is also a small matter of a certain key supporting character who just sort of vanishes during a high-tension sequence and never reappears, which no one seems to notice…but he was a douchebag anyway. All in all, The Possession is a solid ‘haunting’ flick that is very capable of getting the skin crawling, while boasting higher quality acting and dedication than this type of movie may rightfully be worthy of. For horror/thriller fans…rest assured, the Possession is a safe bet.
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