Somewhere out in the universe, in a vast Jungian conceptual tangle is a library. In this particular library – since it is an imaginary construct – there are only two books. One thin volume is a collection of foundational stories: these stories are the basis of ever told. The other is a massive tome that, in a less fanciful environment, would fill all the world’s libraries.
This is the thesaurus.
It contains countless variation of the core stories. A rare few of these variants are something special – evolutionary leaps in the material that make it better than the original. Most, however, are pale shades of its progenitor. Neither better nor worse, they could, at best be called, “unnecessary.”
Such is the case with “The Possession.”
It opens with those magical words, “Based on a true story.” From there, we are introduced to the scary box. Voices come from it and it has the power to make people bleed and throw them around the room: handy if you just don’t want to shell out the cash for that home security system. Fast forward a bit to meet Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a basketball coach and divorced father of two girls Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). Their mother (Kyra Sedgewick) has moved on with a new boyfriend and Clyde has moved on to a new house in a new neighborhood and possibly a new job coaching a Division I school. Everything seems OK with everyone. What could possibly ruin such blissful normality?
Would you believe a garage sale?
Em sees the scary box and “decides” she wants it. Dad, of course, sees nothing particularly unusual with his daughter wanting this largish, darkly stained box carved with Hebrew characters because, hey, that’s what all girls in their tweens want. Soon, strange things are afoot and Clyde gets some help from a Hassidic Jew (Matisyahu) to remove the evil spirit from his daughter before it’s too late.
To be completely fair, “The Possession” is not a bad movie. In fact, I could probably go as far to say that it’s a good movie. Danish director Ole Borendal, does a nice job of setting a mood and creating tension and creates a film that is probably a little more solid that most of this particular vein, but…
And there always has to be a “but.”
The movie feels disjointed. Some scenes are separated by fades that make it seem like they were trying to insert commercial breaks into the film. To me it added an unneeded layer of artificiality and simply interrupted the flow of the movie. In addition, the movie – like most genre films these days – simply felt like it was aping the style of films that came before it – particularly those of one of the film’s producers, Sam Raimi. Yes, Raimi has influenced horror filmmakers for the better part of thirty years but if I want to watch a Sam Raimi film, I’ll pop in “The Evil Dead” or “Army of Darkness”. I don’t want to watch someone else homage and that’s what it felt like during this film. It was almost like I was watching some kind of unofficial sequel to “Drag Me to Hell”.
Stylistic quibbles aside, the cast did very well. The script, penned by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (writers of “Knowing”) actually attempts to give us characters instead of just disposable victims. Effects-wise, things were tastefully understated with a few nice gags thrown in to keep things interesting. There was a nice payoff at the end, but I still couldn’t help but think I’d seen it somewhere before.
“The Possession” may be “based on a true story” but ultimately it does nothing to elevate it much past its original story to give us anything new.