When they came up with the poster, they thought they had a winner. Based on a true story is a good tag line to reap in the believers. There are many movies made now with Possession in the title or the concept. I get confused sometimes trying to remember who is possessing who or what has crawled out of where.
I don’t often rent Possession movies, not because I don’t like the genre but because they tend to stay within obvious limits and events move along like a Rugs Rats episode. Someone gets possessed and the gutter talk starts, peoples eyes get wide, roll around and the doctors are confused, then the priest or in this case the Rabbi saves the day but gets wreaked up for it, cause bad things happen when you are standing next to stinking EVIL.
I think the point I am making besides the obvious, is that I believe in evil. I lived it, I experienced it and it’s tangible and it will eat your soul. During the movie I felt evil rise up in the small child possessed by the Demon let loose from a Dybbuk wooden box.
Designed to keep the chastised broken demon named ASBU away from stealing the lives from the innocent. It’s a tangible desire for evil to taint the kind and live off their innocence while it watches their victim wither away.
The contrast of Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s ( Clyde ) love and fear for his daughter made me see a reality of evil that was taking over their lives. It’s a small film, grounded in character. The father is getting a divorce, being treated like a second rate person after years of paying for their house and giving his all. Now he’s last on the list and reprimanded for every twitch. The new guy steps into his slippers and Clyde doesn’t like it, who would? It’s the usual situation but Morgan elevates it with good acting and undertoned reactions. I’m feeling it, and I hate the new guy despite his obvious mellow get along attitude. You can’t be the nice guy and be a real father.
His ex-wife ( Kyra Sedgwick ) has no kind words but plenty of disgust and being fed up with him. It’s all very tangible, though bordering on the mundane, instilled with a few snarky sideglance vibes from Morgan, and it anchors the movie.
Clyde as a weekend, over-appeasing dad buys an old wooden box for Emily (Calis) from a garage sale while the previously wounded victims scrape at nearby window panes in warning. Cue the wind, leaves and strange eating habits with forks.
The sometimes Kubrick-like symmetrical push-ins lend an eerie style and the moments of quiet looking from the outside of situations helps to build suspense, beyond your average Possession movie.
The creep factor sticks out when Emily abruptly gets the un-openable box open, finding trinkets, moths and a ring she slides on her finger that slowly taints her finger and hand an off-shade of ash green. Again good lighting saves it from being a ‘seen it before’ scene, and from being completely forgetable.
Later, in the washroom, peering with a penlight, Emily coughs up fingers grasping from inside her throat. This is not the usual possession scene. It’s inside her and it’s not coming out anytime soon. But the demon wants to be seen and frighten others.
Emphasis are the abrupt chops in edits, leaving me hanging in the middle of motion. Again, an example of simple fair made better in its execution.
It becomes so apparent Emily is stricken with something unnatural even the college professor says when reading the wooden boxes inscriptions. “Just don’t open it”
Too late for that, they can’t get rid of the damn thing because Emily is always drawn back to where ever her father has thrown the box. It’s a part of her now and what’s in her won’t let go.
An interesting scene not often brought into contrast in such a clear visual way is when getting a MRI, the doctors find the Demon living inside Emily, moving, breathing, eating the little girl’s life. Sedqwich, caught in concise, stark lighting, stares in disbelief and is instantly transformed into a believer. Finally medical dollars at work, or as the Rabbi’s son would say “What do you think I am, a doctor? People die here!”
Clyde’s strong love and battle feels real, Calis growls and postures. But aside from good editing and nicely spotted blacks on the screen’s canvas, The Possession doesn’t really terrify. It runs the course like a school for bad, wayward kids getting reprimanded by the Jewish headmaster for drinking the forbidden wine under the stairs.
The demon predictably jumps from Calis to Clyde, though I don’t recall seeing the event. It’s a short lived reprieve for the demon as the Hasidic chants it back into its wooden box. Once again the slimy bugger loses like a bad Gollum, crawling over the wet tiles to get back to its just reward.Sadly Matisyahu, the likable and underused Rabbi’s son, get side ended ala Damian meets the Exorcist, just as you knew he had to. If you’re going to drive around with an evil Dybbuk box in the front seat, you better get ready for some serious bad luck in your rear and side view mirrors coming right at you.
In the 70’s this may have been scary and almost had some replay value, but in this era it reads like a script lost in a Mormon’s attic..
Still Morgan’s relationship with his girls and his portrayal as a father out of step with his family is powerful enough together to emotionally strengthen the movie and make the rest watchable, despite some of its obvious trails.
Gratifying as it was to see the family together again at the dinner table in the end, I can’t help but know that if Clyde wasn’t the masculine Demon beater, huffing his way back into the bedroom, his Ex-wife would still have him on the curb like a beaten dog. It ties up in an ironic but family way. Maybe a little too close to home for some.
Still, on a bored evening, I almost like it.