August 30, 2012

'Possession' turns teen girl wicked odd

The effects are chilling, the build-up ominous, but the film lacks impact.

By ROGER MOORE McClatchy Newspapers

If you see only one demonic possession/Jewish exorcism movie this year, make it "The Possession."

click image to enlarge

Natasha Calis plays the innocent inhabited by an evil spirit in “The Possession.”

Courtesy photo

REVIEW

"THE POSSESSION," starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis and Matisyahu. Directed by Ole Bornedal. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences. Running time: 1:31

Swap the clerical collars for a yarmulke, change the sacred incantations from Latin to Hebrew, leave out the pea soup, and you've got a passable PG-13 version of "The Exorcist," the granddaddy of all exorcism movies.

But don't forget the box where the demon possessing this little girl came from. According to Jewish folklore, a Dybbuk Box -- the original title of this thriller, back when it was rated R and slated to come out last fall -- is where the canny and the devout can lock up an evil spirit. Until that evil spirit whispers into the ear of some innocent victim (the more innocent the better) and slips out and takes over the victim's body.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Clyde, a newly divorced college basketball coach who is trying to make his weekends with his daughters (Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport) pleasant. Then he hits the wrong garage sale, and Emily (Calis), the youngest, buys an odd wooden box with hidden locks and Hebrew carvings on it.

Before Clyde can ask the ex (Kyra Sedgwick), "Have you noticed anything odd going on with Emily?" we're noticing all these odd things going on with Emily. Moths fly out of the box and infest Dad's house.

Overnight, Emily turns into a Goth girl, taking her fashion tips from the ghost in "The Ring."

"Why is the box so important to you?" Dad wants to know.

"Don't know. Just is."

Teenagers.

She's hearing voices, wearing a ring from the box that changes the color of her hand and when she gags, she sees fingers sticking up out of her throat.

Yeah, "odd."

Dad starts looking for answers -- from a Jewish academic at his Brooklyn college.

Meanwhile, everyone who threatens the box is assaulted by an invisible assailant that flings them against walls and through windows. We see the first attack in the film's opening scene.

Inspired, apparently, by a 2004 newspaper article detailing the "bad luck" felt by various folks who possessed a Holocaust-era box, "The Possession" has a perfunctory "Amityville Horror" feel to it. It's as if, like that film and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," the filmmakers thought their "based on a true story" claim was all the credibility it needed, a story freighted with extra frights simply because it is "true."

Danish director Ole Bornedal manages a few gotchas, some decent jolts. But as spooky as Calis is, the adults have little to work with. Sedgwick registers shock, and Morgan's natural playfulness is introduced, then ignored.

The Jewish experts he consults, especially the "Hassidic reggae superstar"-turned-actor Matisyahu, who plays a rabbi's son, are the only ones allowed to make light of all this.

The effects are chilling enough, the build-up has its ominous moments. But the film lacks impact, those horrific sucker punches that take you by surprise and raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

By the third or fourth time the angelic-looking Calis rolls her eyes in that way the possessed do, she isn't the only one.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)