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The Possession Attempts to Startle With High Decibel Levels

The Possession
Directed by Ole Bornedal
Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White
Lionsgate, 2012

I haven’t seen anything Ole Bornedal has done, except for 1997’s Nightwatch, the Ewan McGregor/Nick Nolte movie.  Everything else is pretty unfamiliar to me. The Possession is the second horror movie in two weeks, and while this one is way, way better than last week’s atrocity The Apparition, it still has too many issues to keep it from being suitable.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a divorced dad who is moving into a new place, not unlike the new place that the young couple in The Apparition get into: apparently new neighborhoods are the new Amityville Horror.  He shares custody of his two daughters, Em (Natasha Calis) and the older Hannah (Madison Davenport) with his ex-wife, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick).  They are the kind of divorced couple you can see getting back together: it appears their main issue was that Clyde was too driven as a basketball coach to be around much.  Anyway, Stephanie seems to be settling in with prototypical movie rebound guy Brett (Grant Show).

Clyde and his daughters go to a yard sale in the new neighborhood and pick up a small wooden box with Jewish writing on it.  Since we’ve seen someone get horribly disfigured trying to open the box earlier, we know this can’t be good news.  Apparently, there’s a secret to opening it, which is what Em ends up doing, and a spirit possesses her.  Not too long after, she starts acting weird, like stabbing-her-father-in-the-hand-with-a-fork weird.  And beating up a kid at school weird.  Oh yeah, and moths.  Lots of moths.

As usual, when the child starts acting out, it must be because of the divorce.  And when Clyde is suspected of abusing his daughter, that’s when he decides to go through the “massive research involving the internet and/or sifting through library microfiche and/or conducting interviews with paranormal experts” scenes.  This movie separates itself from other possession tales by making this a Jewish exorcism rather than a Catholic one (Hint: it’s the same, only with more facial hair, and more Matisyahu).

Here are some observations: I don’t understand how the rules can keep changing in a movie like this.  The box horribly mangles someone at the beginning of the movie for daring to try to open it.  Then it finds another host, and Em warns her dad not to touch the box, ever,  But he does, and nothing happens.  Meanwhile, a concerned teacher gets tossed around a classroom working really late at night just for even looking at the box at a distance.  Actually, not even paying much attention to the box at all.  So what are the rules for this thing?  I know, I know, it’s just a movie, right?  They gotta throw in a scare or two now and then to keep us interested…but this is why horror movies tend to suck a lot, by not giving us any structure, like rules don’t matter because it’s supernatural.

The movie does the tried-and-true method of SUPER LOUD SCREAMING AND NOISE to get most of its scares.  You spend long enough in front of a set of speakers vibrating loud enough, then you just might get fooled into thinking it’s affecting you.  It does have one or two memorable moments, a couple it could have used a lot more of.

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