If you are like me, you’ve scrolled through popular auction sites and have seen bizarre things up on the block such as “ I dug this jar up from a local cemetery and since I’ve had it, strange things are happening.” Sam Raimi read a 2004 LA Times article “A Jinx in a Box” and purchased the rights for his Ghost House Pictures production company. This story became the catalyst for the recently released film The Possession about a young girl who acquires a Dybbuk box containing a demon that is bent on taking her over while her parents and older sister fight to save her.
Directed by Ole Bornedal, written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, produced by Sam Raimi.The film takes place in a little less than a month’s time and while the pace is quick, the timeline does not feel choppy in the least. I have to admit it falls into the trap so many scary movies do these days- the trailers give the good scares away- but there are still plenty of goose bump moments. In particular there is a scene in the kitchen between the mom and daughter that did have me truly on edge.
Is The Possession ground breaking or a new story that needs to be told? No, but it tells an old story in a compelling way with some good chills. Thankfully the movie does not rely on elaborate and plentiful special effects but more atmospheric tension. I hate to compare it to the obvious example of The Exorcist; the latter is an iconic film. I do not think The Possession aspires to be that grandiose. It is a quieter scary movie that is probably more effectively viewed at home on a dark rainy night than in a large theater.
At the heart of most good scary stories, there is a human story too. A family torn apart by divorce and a dad that is pretty absent, choosing his career over his family, are at the center of The Possession. Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are great at having those soft moments spawned by memory then instantly returning to their separated reality. As a moviegoer, I cared for this family and that enhanced the level of horror that was enfolding. It wasn’t just about the effects. We see the family in their daily lives juxtaposed with the possession as it is happening and that gives the story its teeth.
Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are believable in their roles as a newly divorced couple, Natasha Calis gives a great physical performance as the possessed girl, and recording artist Matisyahu plays a small but integral role and is so likeable on screen I hope to see him in other things soon. However, the most surprising performance in the film is by Madison Davenport who plays Calis’ older sister. Davenport balances a fine line between bratty oldest child, caring sister, and a daughter pained by her parents’ split. She plays the role with strength, not pity, and is one of those actors who can do so much with so little. I wish her a drama free childhood in Hollywood and will keep an eye out for her future roles. And honorable mention to original Melrose Place alumni Grant Show who seems to be having a Hollywood comeback.
It looks like there may be a sequel. After a first place Labor Day weekend opening, the film’s producer, Sam Raimi, has already hinted to MTV the possibility of sequel, “There are so many tales of the original Dybbuk box that never made it to the screen in this version. It’s really out there, that thing. People do have so many stories. Ghost House Pictures has gone ahead and purchased the rights to their stories to make into a film…”
The final word, there are so few good horror films so if you like simple scary stories this is a great choice. It is like the raisin bran of horror. It has substance and a story that makes sense, a few scares, but not many effects or laughs. Matinee it or wait for blue-ray.