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New Viewpoint Brings Fresh Look to Possession

The scariest part of watching The Possession late Saturday night was not the movie itself, rather the experience of seeing it in mob-like conditions at Kansas City’s own Country Club Plaza. But my job is to review movies, not the community’s inability to control unruly teenage crowds. And if I think about The Possession now, in the safety of my own home, I think I liked it quite a bit.

There are some actors whose presence in a project lends credibility to the movie. In this case, it is Kyra Sedgwick, most recently of TNT’s The Closer. Although The Possession is filled with recognizable faces from the small screen, Sedgwick is an Emmy-winning superstar who outshines them all.

In a twist from most horror movies, in The Possession it is the mother (Sedgwick) of the afflicted child who is last to become a believer, instead of the father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Gray’s Anatomy/Supernatural). In Sedgwick’s best scene, when her obnoxiously-perfect boyfriend (Grant Show, Melrose Place) tells her to lighten up on the wine, she immediately savors the last few swigs in her giant glass. (And don’t worry; Show gets what’s coming to him.)

Sedgwick and Morgan are recently divorced. On one of his weekends with his two daughters, dad stops at a yard sale where the youngest girl, Em (Natasha Calis), is drawn to an antique box. Nobody knows it’s an antique box that mysteriously killed its previous owner (which is why it’s in a yard sale). By the time Em figures out how to open it and confesses to her sister that she doesn’t feel like herself, it seems like we’re headed deep into Exorcist territory.

Yes and no. This is a kind of supernatural possession that we rarely see: a Jewish one. And the Jewish demons don’t do the head-spinning, pea soup spitting routine. They come closer to physically inhabiting their host bodies, appearing within them in MRIs and causing them to gag as their hands reach out of their throats. I don’t want to give away too much, but I found this approach somewhat original, closer in nature to something we’d see from Japan rather than Hollywood.

In The Possession, it’s not so much the demon that matters, though, as it is the box. It’s called a “Dibbuk Box” and is practically a character in itself. When opened, kind of like a primitive version of Hellraiser’s cube, it contains all kinds of creepy trinkets. Part of the fun in the movie is the mythology involved and eventually learning why these trinkets are there. Again, it seems like an original concept rather than a rehashing of the familiar.

Director Ole Bornedal made one of my favorite foreign thrillers, Nattevagten (Denmark, 1994), as well as its U.S. remake, Night Watch (1997), starring Ewan McGregor. He doesn’t bring much of a unique style to The Possession, but he keeps the screenplay by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (the wildly entertaining, but vastly underrated, Knowing) clipping along at a healthy pace.

Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures is infinitely more successful here than was Dark Castle Entertainment with last week’s appallingly bad release, The Apparition. The Possession still has its share of silly moments, particularly near the end. But with its fresh viewpoint on the supernatural and its twisting of standard plot points, it’s a mostly enjoyable end of summer experience.

REVIEW: The Possession
3.5Overall Score
Creepy Kids
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