Cynics may sneer at the prospect of another possession movie, and there is certain justification for that. The last decade has seen a range of features on the subject, fluctuating between the sublime and the ridiculous. It does, however, take a brave filmmaker to tackle this particular sub-genre – mostly because it’s akin to making a movie about an isolated man suffering a violent breakdown in a haunted hotel – that this form of story has peaked already. Not that it would be impossible to make a movie about possession that could top William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) – just highly improbable. The Possession should pique interest amongst ardent horror fans, though, due to the fact that it has been put together in part by Ghost House Pictures, the production company belonging to Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert (who are also releasing Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead vision in a manner of weeks). With a plot that deviates from the standard fare and superb special effects on display, The Possession sets out to create a new approach to an oft-told tale.
An antique box sits on a mantelpiece, emitting indecipherable and guttural rumblings which deeply disturb the elderly resident of the house. This resident, a frenzied and tormented looking woman, makes an attempt to destroy it, which results in a stunningly effective act of violence, setting the tone and generating suspense for The Possession’s subsequent narrative.
Following an embittered divorce, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is forced to move out of the familial home which he once shared with Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). He takes up residence in a ‘ghost estate,’ a semi completed area of suburban wasteland, in which he is one of few, if any other homeowners. His daughters, Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis), display an usual mixture of awkwardness and despondency that children of divorce often do, retreating into their own world and interests, creating a distinct separation between their world and that of the adults. As they visit their father one weekend, he takes them to a yard sale, where Em becomes inexplicably drawn to the aforementioned box from the opening scene.
Em’s interest in this apparently innocuous artefact soon becomes a dangerous obsession – one which could potentially be the end of her. Em becomes withdrawn and sullen, aggressive and unpredictable, all of which is put down to a delayed reaction to her parents’ marital breakdown. Strange goings on begin to occur, and as their violence and intensity increases, Clyde’s concern turns to desperation. Struggling to regain the trust and cooperation of his estranged wife, the fractured lines of communication which they now have with one another could potentially destroy the lives of their children.
Convinced that there are elements of the supernatural at play, and suspicious of the worrying connection that Em now has with her antique box, Clyde seeks religious advice and acquires the assistance of a young Hasidic Jew named Tzadok (Matisyahu), who knows of the evil with which they are dealing. It transpires that the box is known as a Dibbuk Box – an evil and dangerous item that contains the spirit of an ancient demon, a stealer of innocent souls.
Time is of the essence as Clyde and Tzadok work to free the child’s spirit from the clutches of a malevolent and powerful entity.
The 1080p BLU RAY transfer is definitely the one to go for, as the SFX contained within The Possession are fabulous. The emphasis on a blue and grey colour palate is gorgeously enhanced by HD and the insect scenes, in particular, benefit greatly from this. The 5.1 stereo sound only serves to create a nightmarish and engrossing world. Anything with Raimi’s imprint on it will be an audio-visual banquet, and The Possession is no exception.
This is one of those fine instances whereupon the extras are almost better than the movie. A documentary on the history of the Dibbuk Box is nothing short of engrossing, whilst the two commentaries by the writers and director of the feature are enlightening, entertaining, and shed new light on the construction of this fascinating story.
The Possession creates a wonderful new slant on the well-worn path of eponymously themed movies. The central performances are commendable, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan oftentimes carrying the feature with his limitless charm and charisma. A splendid Friday night fright, this is one best enjoyed in the company of others, for its relentless scares and atmospheric pacing will certainly elicit plenty of screams.
– By Colin McCracken