Movie Review: "The Possession" by Ben Foutch

Director: Ole Bornedal
Writers: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Stars: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 92 min

A child becomes possessed by a demon and the unlucky family must seek help in order to remove said nuisance. Sound familiar? I thought so...The Possession is no different in that regard and is as predictable as it sounds. While it is all too familiar and has plenty of weak spots, this "based on a true story" tale succeeds in delivering a creepy thrill-ride that is begging for at least one more watch.

Em (Natasha Calis) is a smart, caring and mature girl who is dealing with her parents recent divorce. On a weekend with her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), she becomes enthralled with an antique wooden box at a yard sale. Like most people in horror films, she decides to open the box, even though it is mysteriously whispering her name and appears to be designed in a way where it wasn't meant to be opened - hate to say it Em, but I could have told you so.

Ole Bornedal has made a fun horror film that pushes the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, but it has some major problems. The most glaring and obvious issue is the rigidly choppy scene transitions that occur early in the film. A scene would build either from drama or supernatural suspense and then quickly fall flat from an edit into a new one. This happens quite frequently. Now, I don't know if that was a deliberate attempt to keep us on edge for most of the early run time, but it just completely killed the flow of the film. Maybe if they would have concentrated on a specific drama or horror aspect and cut out some of the obligatory exposition for either element, it would have created more stability and coherence. There was an MRI scene that should have been removed from the script and never been committed to the final product. The final exorcism scene is also very anticlimactic.

However, there are also plenty of good things about this overused story. For starters, the film score is so beautifully simplistic and effective. Its abrasiveness and hauntingly delicious harmonies set a tone that is both eerie and dangerous. When combined with a sound design that is represented by spine-tingling whispers, screaming and an odd mixture of crying/laughing, the overall effect is very unsettling.

Bornedal is an extremely competant director, and not only did he create a frenetically jolting movie, but he ripped some fine performances from his cast. Their relationships give emotional credence to an otherwise stale tale. Morgan plays the sympathetic father with a heightened skill and his hurt is believable when confronted with the realization that Em is facing something beyond his control. Calis is also compelling. She plays from a  multiple personality disorder angle and dishes out a soul-piercing thousand yard stare. 

The Possession is an unnecessary, but welcome addition to the genre that wears its influences on its sleeve, creating a retro aesthetic. Nevertheless, there are about three scenes that are some of the more memorable horror moments that I've witnessed in quite some time, especially for a wide release - one of which will have those afflicted by ordontophobia running for the door. Yes I've seen this type of film numerous times before, and it is far inferior to the genre great, The Exorcist, to which it draws heavily from. When it was all said and done, I had a good time.  And isn't that what summer movies are for?