Said to be based on a true story but inspired more by The Exorcist than anything else, The Possession tells of a young girl who buys a mysterious box at a yard sale. We already know something is amiss with the antique because we saw the previous owner frantically trying to destroy it.
The young girl, Em (an impressive Natasha Calis) becomes attached to her new possession in a way that is not altogether healthy. “Whoever made this didn’t want anyone to open it,” states dad, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The box has no seams making it difficult to pry apart and peak inside. However, when alone, Em finds a way of getting to the contents inside, and by doing so she unwittingly unleashes a spirit that has every intention of taking over the young girl’s body.
The ‘true events’ part of the story is regarding the existence of the antique box. It’s called a Dibbuk Box, the name given to a spirit from Jewish folklore. The history of the Dibbuk came to light after a short article written in the L.A. Times by Leslie Gornstein telling the story of a man who bought such a box at an estate sale and sold it on eBay. The film takes this theme and creates a fictional tale regarding a conflicted family dealing with separation, divorce and something that most families never have to concern themselves with, demonic possession.
The Possession benefits from its release date. For its target audience, the film’s only competition is last week’s release of The Apparition, and compared to that script, The Possession is a welcomed return to what the horror genre can do when given the chance. The performances from the two accomplished leads give the film an unexpected solid foundation. Both Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (here a dead-ringer for Javier Bardem throughout) deliver the kind of earnest performances that would lend themselves to any serious drama. You believe their frustrations are real even if you don’t believe any of the fantastical things you’re witnessing.
Director Ole Bornedal has said in an interview that he was drawn to the story because of its depiction of divorce and family life under pressure; a noble artistic sentiment perhaps, but I can’t see audiences getting anything out of The Possession other than a few chills and thrills. The idea that the film truly explores the effects of a mother/father separation in any serious fashion is one of those things artists say to lend gravitas to a project; but make no mistake, The Possession is a straight forward horror film, and as long as you see it as this and nothing else, fans of the genre should have a good enough time.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 91 minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)