If there’s one thing we learned from The Exorcist it’s never play with that Ouija board found hidden away in the basement. No point in rousing the powers of something you don’t fully understand. Just in case.
In the new independent, low-budget horror from writer/director David Jung, The Possession of Michael King, the Michael of the title does exactly that; he rouses something he doesn’t understand, mostly because he doesn’t believe anything bad will actually happen. How could it? The truth to Michael is so simple: There’s nothing out there and he’s going to prove it once and for all.
Michael King (Shane Mikael Johnson) is a documentary filmmaker who believes in neither God nor the devil. By all accounts, he seems like a nice guy with a nice wife and a nice daughter who vows on camera that her new year’s resolution will be to tell her mother on a daily basis that she loves her. Then disaster strikes this nice family. Mom (Cara Pifko) dies and Michael couldn’t be more bitter. And he’s really bitter with the supernatural.
It’s not that he believes the supernatural had anything to do with his wife’s unfortunate death – he has no belief in the supernatural at all – it’s because the words of a clairvoyant (Dale Dickey) who once gave Michael’s wife a card reading caused the young woman to change some plans. She acted on what the clairvoyant told her. If those plans had never been changed, Michael’s wife would still be alive; at least, that’s how Michael sees it.
As a form of revenge to totally discredit the existence of anything supposedly supernatural, Michael begins his obsessive project; to make a documentary that records what happens when he invites evil spirits into his life. “I’m the testing ground,” he states into the camera. “Me. Michael King. So if you’re out there; God, the devil, come and get me.”
Having access to all the right equipment, Michael places cameras in every room of the house in order to record exactly what is about to happen. He orders a demon-summoning kit – black candles, a small plastic altar – over the Internet, then places an on-line ad stating ‘Documentary filmmaker seeks proof of the supernatural.’ Within a short time he receives more than three hundred responses.
But then things go wrong – voices in the night; accidents; interference with the cameras, then the truly unimaginable. What follows is the result of rousing the powers of something Michael never fully understood, and it’s devastating.
The Possession of Michael King is yet another film that uses the found-footage method of story telling. Everything we see, even those early moments of a happy family life, is through the lens of a camera. Like Paranormal Activity before it, the film it most closely resembles in style, there are cameras all over the place recording every moment of Michael’s life, documenting his downfall into madness and ultimately his horrific, demonic possession. Fortunately for us, as most of his cameras are locked down, there’s little nauseous movement of the jerky-styled playback; everything is relatively grounded, which is a plus when it comes to the found-footage genre. At least we can see what’s happening without feeling queasy, and the results are relatively realistic, though you may find yourself asking the following: If what we’re watching is the finished documentary made from Michael’s carefully placed video cameras, who edited it down from the endless hours of recordings and put it together for us to see?
Had the film hit theatres some years ago, The Possession of Michael King might have seemed ground-breaking. There are chills, several ‘Boo’ moments that make you jump, and some genuine scares, plus Shane Mikael Johnson convinces as a man playing around with something he really shouldn’t. But we’ve become so used to this method, this visual style of video playback, it no longer has the same effect. While there is much to impress the horror movie enthusiast, the fact that it looks so much like things seen before with a conclusion that harkens back to the mother of all possession themed movies, The Exorcist, the impact is reduced. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking no further than wanting to see something that might give you a sleepless night, then Possession will work.
But if you do happen to find a Ouija board by accident tucked away in your basement, pitch it. No point in rousing the powers of something you don’t fully understand. Just in case.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 83 Minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)