Thursday, August 30, 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Possession (2012)

 
Finally...a good summer PG-13 horror film!

Now...before I start in on the review for the film. I gotta mention that watching this early screening of this film was a great honor, as I got a chance to meet Roger Ebert. He's someone who first influenced me to critique films. Both him and Richard Roeper were in attendance and I was blown away that I was sitting just a few feet from both critics. So, in a small way...this review is dedicated to the love of critiquing films.

The Possession  is the chilling new film from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures. It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgewick, Grant Show and an impressive turn by young Natasha Calis. The film delves into Hebrew lore as it is based on a true story about a family that purchased a dybbuk box from eBay only to have terrifying shit happen to them. Only, here, eBay is replaced by a good old fashioned yard sale.

So, the opening of the film is sort of wacky in the same way that Raimi's Drag Me to Hell  was wacky. An old lady looks to mess with a rather ominous looking dybbuk box on the freaking mantle in her living room. It's not long before something throws here around the room and ultimately plants her face-first into the coffee table as her son pulls up in the driveway (a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88?). The Possession  is full of darkly humorous moments like this spread throughout the film that would lead one to believe that Raimi was a little more than a producer of the film, as he tends to combine tongue-in-cheek horror stuff expertly. Even the the sound design reeked of Drag Me to Hell.
 
 
The actual director of the film is the Danish born Ole Bornedal, whom you might remember as the guy that directed Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte and Josh Brolin in 1997's Nightwatch. A film that has its charms. Here, he makes great use of timing and scope, blending the serene with the jarring quite nicely. And the film is breath-taking thanks to the cinematography of Dan Laustsen.
 
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of my current favorites and here he plays newly divorced Clyde to Sedgewick's Stephanie. He's a basketball couch who enjoys playing with invisible balls. As part of the arrangement, Clyde takes his two daughters home with him on the weekends. One day, upon the insistance of his daughters, Clyde stops off at a yard sale. They end up purchasing some second-hand dishes and a fucking dybbuk box. Well, you could probably guess where things go from there.
 
If you remember Melrose Place, then you'll surely remember Grant Show. He shows up to play Stephanie's post-divorce boyfriend and he supplies some of the goofier moments in the film. The stand out of the film would have to be Natasha Calis. She pretty much has the look to go from innocent vegan pre-teen to demon-possessed monster kid in seconds.
 
Its was also nice to see reggae recording artist Matisyahu show up as the Hebrew battler of demons. Here the Jewish warrior squares off against a demon named Abyzou, who has an affinity toward innocent children. It was a welcome twist to an exhausted subgenre that definitely made things much more interesting.

 
I would say that the only real detriments were that of the safe PG-13 trappings. Often times the film just seemed way too family friendly and threatened to steer the bus into melodrama territory. If the film had an edgier rating, it would've been much more dangerous. And we like dangerous around these parts.
 
Still, the film pulled off a few genuine creep out moments and watching the events unfold, though predictable, was actually pretty entertaining, thanks to the great performances by everyone involved. For all the things that I tend to say about ambiguous horror films, this one is pretty straight-forward and attempts to actually show the demon, Abyzou, during the final encounter. Which, I applaud...because, rarely, do we ever get a horror film displaying real horror anymore. When I sit down to watch a film called The Possession, I expect demons and evil shit to happen in the film. Not a drawn out court case about whether insanity is an issue or a suspicion of recreational drug use. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that I need the film to be black and white. I just merely enjoy a good old fashion horror movie where they actually show me a fucking monster every now and again.
 
Bornedal actually mentioned somewhere that he set out to make a film about the aftermath of a divorce and use demonic elements as metaphors. And, while that stuff definitely shows through, he also happened to create an enjoyable PG-13 summer horror film.
 
The Possession  is a solid way to spend 92 minutes. I can't be completely sure but, after I met with Roger Ebert, I motioned for him to give me either a thumbs up or a thumbs down for the film...and he gave me a thumbs up. Roeper also enjoyed the film. And for about an hour and a half, I enjoyed sitting in a dark theater watching a good horror film with those guys.

 
 
 
 
 

We'll see you next time...at the movies!





Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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