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Film Review: The Possession

The latest in a long line of demonic possession films, including The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Exorcism, The Possession’s main deviation is that it doesn’t feature “Exor” in its title and it features a shifty, haunted wine box. The rest is fairly standard, which can work if the horror tropes are well used; but they’re not and it makes Possession unengaging and unfortunately never scary.

Em (Natasha Calis) is determined to open an engraved antique box that she finds at a yard sale. Soon, her behaviour becomes increasingly strange and violent. Using modern medicine and ancient holy methods, her father Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) struggles to save his daughter from whatever the cause is.

Like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it claims to be “based on a true story” (So of course it’s mostly invented), The Possession follows demon-child clichés so closely that it feels like a film made on auto-pilot. It would also be far more shocking if a horror-film today could end without throwing in an arbitrary Carrie-esque surprise end. With his past in horror cinema, some hope was inspired from having Sam Raimi attached as producer. However you’d never have guessed his involvement solely based on the film’s strengths, comparing Raimi’s coarse, tactile approach to what you see in The Possession, for example CGI bugs, simply harms it further. It may take inspiration from horror greats, yet it won’t frighten you like they could.

A lot centres on how demonic meddling affects the relationship between an unreliable father and his daughter. And for such a young actress, Natasha Calis does a good job in her regular turns from regular to demon-girl, but the main characters were often too annoying, so it’s hard to care about their situation or problems, demon related or not. Not only does Possession not scare you, it doesn’t involve you either. During one horror bit in a classroom, I got so uninterested that I found myself, rather than giving the scene my full attention, mentally doing the maths problems on the wall.

Dull, uninteresting and not scary, The Possession might not be long, but it still drags. Much of the possessed-girl stuff repeats, though Calis does a good job with these parts, it doesn’t offer enough that’s new to justify being so routine. It just appears unworthy of being so similar to The Exorcist or to have Sam Raimi involved. My expectations weren’t very high, although I never could’ve imagined that whilst watching The Possession, maths would briefly steal my focus. Instead of simply overdoing slasher-style gore, the film’s creators try to disturb by creating an uneasy atmosphere; unfortunately that turned out to be harder than they thought.

 

- Jon Bartholomew



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