The movie begins by warning audiences that the film’s events take place over a 29-day period. What it should have said is the film feels like it lasts 29-days. The Possession is a stereotypical take on the tried-and-true “innocent girl gets her body hijacked by demons” story that doesn’t give the genre anything new, but a lot of the same. And even that’s not done all that well. Hit the jump for our review of The Possession on Blu-ray.
In the film, young Emily (Natasha Calis), “Em” to her family, is coping with her parents’ divorce. Her father, Clyde (Jeffery Dean Morgan), is a workaholic college basketball coach who loves his family, but can’t seem to make time for them. Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), Em’s ever-protective mother, constantly worries over her children’s well-being. While staying with her father over a visitation weekend, Em discovers a strange wooden box at a yard sale, and shortly thereafter, begins to hear whispers from a bodiless voice that urges her to open it. Em eventually concedes, which unleashes the malevolent Dibbuk, an evil spirit bent on destroying innocent souls.
If it sounds like you’ve heard this story before, it’s because you have. The film’s very predictable narrative follows the classic demonic possession blueprint to a T, and never deviates from it. The spirit’s horrible doings are attributed to Em acting out because of the divorce, but her father feels something more sinister is going on. Of course, he’s the only one that thinks so, which causes everyone around him to assume he’s the one responsible for Em’s bruises and disconnected attitude. He seeks the help of a rabbi to dispel the ethereal creature. But things don’t go as planned. So it goes.
The vanilla story is further muddled with easily forgettable characters and plot devices seemingly dropped in and left behind whenever it suits the narrative. Em’s sister, Hannah (Madison Davenport), is the teeny bopper older sibling that proves the parents could birth one normal child. The mother’s new lover, Bret, (Grant Show), causes tension between the two parents, but the moment disaster befalls him, he bolts and is never discussed again. Not a, “Bret, what happened,” or a, “Where are you going,” or even a, “Gee, I wonder what happened to that Bret guy.” One major cause for tension is Clyde’s inability to stop working and his quest to “be a big shot” once again. We know he used to be something important because it’s mentioned during the movie, but that’s it. There’s no pictures, no flashback, just that one line, which is all the audience has to explain why he wants to be a success.
One would think that at least following a proven story scheme would lead to some creepy scenes, but that rarely happens throughout its 92-minute run time. A twisted face here, a hand reaching out there, demonic girl voice sprinkled in for good measure. There are opportunities for truly horrifying things to take place, but either the little girl gains control again, or the camera quickly cuts off, ending the scene. There is one scene that induces a small amount of fear where EM is standing under an exit sign in a dark morgue, lit only by the red light above, crying, laughing, and muttering to her father. The staff must have known this was the only real successful scene in the movie, as they also made it the scene that plays during the Blu-Ray menu screen.
As with the film itself, the cinematography and music is fairly bland, but not problematic. Overhead shots of buildings and neighborhoods introduce new scenes often, though there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it other than the cool factor. Scenes do have a bad habit of abruptly cutting to black, which is an annoyance, but a small one. The music itself fades into the background, but not in a good way. It doesn’t add tension to the suspenseful scenes, nor does it stick out like a sore them when audiences should be focusing on the creepy spirit girl. It’s just there.
None of the film’s issues can be blamed on the cast, however. The actor’s particularly Natasha Calis, give their characters all they can to make them relatable. There’s simply no way to breathe life into a blandly-written character. It’s also surprising that the writers didn’t give their big name actors more screen time. Giving Kyra Sedgwick more screen time and a bigger role would have only improved the film.
The Blu-Ray’s extra features are arguably better than the film itself. It’s rare when audio commentaries actually enhance a movie, but the director and writer commentaries do, both in very different ways. The director commentary by Ole Bornedale doesn’t just fluff up the actors or special effects, but goes into length about the importance of certain scenes and why the actors were vital for their roles. The writer commentary by goes into length about the Dibbuk legend, something they were both obviously passionate about. It’s just a shame they couldn’t infuse their script with the same kind of enthusiasm. The best extra was the mini-documentary about the Dibbuk legend itself, which goes into detail about the box that inspired the movie and is by far more frightening than the movie it’s attached to.
Overall, The Possession, much like Bret, is mediocre at best and easily forgettable. Audiences are better served with classic possession films like The Exorcist, though the extra features are worth watching if borrowed from a friend.
Movie: C-, Extras: B+