The Possession

The Possession - posterDirector: Ole Bornedal

Writer: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

Cast: Jeffery Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport

Cert: 15

Running time: 92mins

Year: 2012


The lowdown: Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a divorcee who discovers his youngest daughter has been possessed by a dybbuk, a spirit locked in an ornate wooded box she bought from a yard sale. Denied entry into the afterlife, it’s after a human host to keep warm in. Before you can say spinning heads, the demon is unleashed and the horror hits the fan in this CGI laden chiller.

The full verdict: The Possession is the latest film to expect us to believe the horror hokum we are about to see is “based on true events”. This would be fine if its story wasn’t so preposterous and the characters didn’t behave like not one of them had ever seen a horror film before.

An encouraging first half opens with a spectacular supernatural assault on an old lady attempting to destroy the demon in the box, before moving onto basketball coach Clyde (stocky Robert Downey Jr lookalike Morgan) his two daughters, Hannah (Davenport) and the younger Em (the promising Calis) and ex-wife (Sedgwick).

Sensitive and shy, Em is prime demon bait and once the box is opened she’s belligerent, speaking in odd voices, swallowing bugs and dressing in drab clothes. Basically pretending she’s 15 instead of 12 then.

Director Bornedal shoots all this in bleak, wintry colours and a cool detachment that nicely escalates tension. He also elicits chills with imaginative CGI that shows the effect of having a demon crawling inside, with eyeballs pushed upward, skin rippling and fingers appearing at the back of the little girl’s throat.

But, when the box is discovered to be adorned with Hebrew markings, The Possession becomes The Exorcist goes Yentl, with all the unintentional hilarity that promises.

Grumbling rabbis do not have the same cinematic blood and thunder as Catholic priests, and the film falls into the same trap that swallowed The Unborn, trying to present something new in the possession movie but ultimately ripping off The Exorcist wholesale.

Of course, with this being a PG-13 in the States the girl may throw her mum across the room, but at no point does she start talking like she’s on an Essex hen party. But, a rival for Sedgwick’s affections is allowed to get a bloody comeuppance despite being an okay guy.

Predictable, derivative, incoherent, dunderheaded and criminally unscary, this is proof the time has come to exorcise possession movies.

Rob Daniel

This review first appeared on on Aug 29th 2012