The Possession 2012 – A Review

TL/DR

A fun possession movie that offers good atmosphere, amazing performances, and good scares even if it doesn’t break new ground. 8/10 – would watch again.

Review

With powerhouses like Sam Rami and Jeffery Dean Morgan involved in this, I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to disappoint, and I was correct. While there is nothing that is specifically different about this possession movie than other movies that it harkens back to, it is still a fun ride and worth the watch.

I think that we too often assume that every movie we ever see has to be something new. We have been so inured with this idea that every story must be somehow unique we forget to see how the retelling of a familiar story is still fun.

As with any movie about possession released since The Exorcist we have to remember that there will be a number of callbacks to that most famous of movies that brought the very idea of possession into the public eye, with one line during the climax being an exact pull from Father Damien Karas (portrayed by the late Jason Miller) from the climax of that film. That doesn’t make <i>The Possession</i> less of a movie for it. The line is used well and makes sense within the context of the film.

If nothing else, we must look at the children who are a part of this film and the amazing performances they give to the events that surround them. Like Haley Joel Osment in the seminal The Sixth Sense, the actresses who portray the daughters provide a phenomenal range and make their responses believable and heartfelt. The audience truly believes that they are afraid, in emotional pain, and confused.

Spoilers Ahead from this point onward

The film opens with a very atmospheric sense of dread moving into a living room of a woman with a ball pein hammer approaching a wooden box inscribed with Hebrew. The closer she gets, the more of a struggles she appears to have, her face finally falling on one side in a palsy reminiscent of stroke victims. She is then tossed around the living room and severely injured in the process. While all of this is happening, her son is outside trying to get into the house.

We then move to Clyde, portrayed adeptly by Jeffery Dean Morgan, who is a basketball coach at the local university. He’s good at what he does, has a good rapport with his players, and genuinely seems to enjoy what it is that he does. His success in his professional life does not translate to how things are going at home with his divorce from Stephanie, played by Kyra Sedgwick, having been finalized three months prior even though he is still in the process of moving his belongings out of the house.

The tension between the two of them is well played as one might expect from these two actors. He’s there to collect the children for time at his place, which the children discover is a brand new house instead of his old apartment.

While moving through the neighborhood they discover a garage sale where the youngest daughter, Emily (Em for short and played by Natasha Calis) finds the box from the beginning of the movie being sold. She appears to be drawn to it and picks it up, asking if she can buy it, to which Clyde obviously agrees (maybe don’t buy your children creepy boxes from garage sales as this seems to be a plentiful source of evil).

Immediately upon purchasing it we watch Em move around the side of the house where she can see the woman from the beginning of the movie in a hospital bed being cared for by a nurse. The woman looks out the window and sees Em holding the box and freaks out until the nurse can close the curtains. Em screams.

At this point, we have a fairly standard decent into possession, but that doesn’t mean that it’s done poorly or is in any way boring. There are some creepy encounters with moths, a false-flag frightening moment that involves a raccoon, and the slowly changing behavior of Em as she is taken hold of by the entity in the box.

They do a good job of making the changes subtle at first, with bursts of aggressive behavior, like stabbing her father’s hand with a fork over breakfast. As more time passes, she becomes more and more obsessed with the box, claiming that her friend lives inside it and that nobody can see her friend. This is disturbing enough for Clyde to get rid of the box, though we’re not quite certain how that’s done.

When Em finds out, she throws a fit, hits herself and claims he was the one who hit her, then runs out of the house and follows the voice of the box to a gas station parking lot, where talks to the entity and is then fully possessed when moths fly into her mouth. She collapses and Clyde shows up a moment later to carry her back.

Throughout all of this, her older sister Hannah (portrayed by Madison Davenport) is getting more confused and frightened as all of this happens.

Stephanie blames Clyde for the bruising and we get some legal drama (bum-bum) where Stephanie is granted a restraining order against Clyde and it looks as though Clyde is going to be turned into the bad guy. The only issue with that is that Em can’t control her possessed body and acts out while with her mom, eating raw meat from the refrigerator while crying. She then nearly attacks her mom, but manages to regain control of herself to avoid killing her.

The use of shadow and light in this scene ads to the building terror and dread that goes along with having a child acting as a completely different person. If this were involving the older daughter, Hannah, one could almost make a parallel between this and becoming a teenager, but that analogy falls a little flat considering how young Em is during this time.

This is frightening enough for Stephanie for the decision to be made to take Em to the hospital the following day, though this doesn’t go as planned as her boyfriend, Brett (played by Grant Show) is attacked by Em with a supernatural force that causes all his teeth to fall out. He drives away and Em ends up having a seizure and is taken to the hospital by an ambulance.

Clyde has been busy, going into the city and looking for answers about the box in the Hasidic community after a professor at the college told him it was a special kind of box for containing a disconnected spirit, or dybbuk. Many of the Rabbis upon hearing that the box was opened leave and want nothing more to do with Clyde or Em, afraid of what the spirit could do.

A young Rabbi decides to help Clyde and they both go to the hospital, where Stephanie has witnessed the spirit living inside her daughter through the use of an MRI. Now convinced that there is something inhabiting her daughter, she’s all in on having the Rabbi to perform an exorcism and get the dybbuk back into the box.

While any of us who are horror fans are fully aware of exorcism scenes in movies, this does a good job of not going over the top while remaining creepy and providing a sense weight to the events that other films seem to eschew for the sake of effects and spectacle.

Here is where we hear a line that most of us reading this will be familiar with.

“Take me!” Clyde yells at the demon inside his daughter, echoing Father Karas yelling at Regan “Take me!” at the end of The Exorcist. While this tactic works in both films, it is far less fatal to Clyde than it was to Father Karas’ body (Exorcist III has some things to say about his death).

With the family reunited and the demon back in the box, the Rabbi takes the box away only to be struck by a tractor trailer and the box is flung clear of the wreckage. The movie ends with the box whispering…

As much as I enjoyed this film, there are some things I was left wondering about and some plot holes I think a sequel or prequel could try to fill in for us.

For one thing, we don’t ever find out why the woman was trying to destroy the box. If it hadn’t been opened, then according to the Rabbi, it had no real power – which moves into the next question regarding the demon having power outside the box even though it was never opened. That seems wholly counter to what we learned about the box later in the film.

Another little issue I had with the movie was the use of an MRI to see the spirit living inside of em. This seemed… corny, and that’s putting it mildly. If this were the case, then all we would ever have to do is put somebody who was possessed into an MRI to see the demon in there with them. How does a demon show up in an MRI, and why is its face inside her chest cavity? I liked The Ghostbuster’s answer to this better when Vinz Clortho (played by Rick Moranis) was inhabiting the body of Louis, we see the Demon Dog Head in place of a Human Head on the screen as Dr. Egon Spangler (portrayed by Harold Ramis) is running tests on him.

Despite these flaws, I would say that this movie is worth your time if you’re looking for a movie that provides good creep factor, this is it. Does it break new ground? No. But it’s still a fun ride.

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Who is Micah Brown?

Micah C. Brown was born in Fort Collins, Colorado and spent a good deal of his younger years growing up between there and Maine.